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Thousands of Children Die As They Flee Somalia’s Drought

Thousands of Children Die As They Flee Somalia’s Drought

According to the United Nations, vast numbers of Somali children are dying as they flee with their families to reach camps in the neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Kenya.  The refugees are trying to escape Somalia’s worst drought in 60 years, which, compounded by violence, is causing a devastating food crisis.  The UNHCR explained that the malnutrition rates in Somalia were “staggering,” with more than a quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million citizens uprooted internally or living outside the country.  And even if families do reach refugee camps outside Somalia’s borders, many children arrive so exhausted and malnourished that they die within 24 hours, despite immediate help and emergency care.

“Knowing that children are dying along their journey to safety breaks our hearts,” said António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “This is turning one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises into a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions.”

According to the BBC, “more than 50% of Somali children arriving in Ethiopia are seriously malnourished. In Kenya, that figure is between 30% and 40%.”

Overcrowding is an increasing problem in the camps, as is food availability.  In some camps, thousands of refugees are arriving every day.  Some were robbed, raped, or attacked by animals on their way to the border, and many went for days without food or water.  When they arrive, however, they have to wait for hours or days to receive basic food rations.

In a move that signals the depth of the crisis in Somalia, al-Shabab, the militant Islamist group which controls the country has lifted a ban on foreign aid.  ”Whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, [if] their intention is only to assist those suffering, they can contact the committee which will give them access to the drought-hit areas,” said a spokesman for al-Shabab.  UN officials hope that al-Shabab’s decision could curb the flow of refugees, and reduce deaths.  But it also shows just how desperate the situation is.

It’s easy to read a story like this and feel bad, but take no action.  After all, Somalia is far away and it seems as though we are powerless in the face of natural disasters and sweeping violence.  The UN and other aid agencies, however, are pleading for support, and I encourage you to go to their website to see what you can do to help.

You can also sign the Care2 petition, asking President Obama to make aid to Somalia a US priority.  After all, the United States has only contributed $14.5 million to food aid in Somalia this year, nowhere near what Somalis need to survive.  We can, and should, do more.  Tell President Obama to send more help from the United States to Somalia!

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Photo from expertinfantry via flickr

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19 comments

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4:08AM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

very sad... Europe, USA, etc always have so much food, and so much which is thrown away every day. And other countries have famines, wars, catastrophes,... they would be happy if "we" could give them the overabundance.

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

7:09PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

So very sad.

7:14PM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Awful situation. USAID is helping in Ethiopia and Kenya in a major effort.

Part of the problem is that when you have warlords controlling the landscape, they will often dole out foreign aid according to their political preferences. We've seen this before in Eritrea and Somalia. Sometimes they will outright withhold the aid from certain groups re-sell it on the black market. Saw this time and again back when I worked for the Agency; nothing much our people on the ground could do about it besides airdrops, which are very expensive. But they do get food and supplies to needy people.

Sad when terrorist warlords hold their own populations hostage to an extreme ideology. The East African drought is bad enough.

9:10PM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

my heart breaks for these poor children. my signature and prayers are enclosed.

12:52PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

I understand that the problem in Somalia is not only that the government refused to allow in aid agencies but that armed gangs hijacked food supplies and threatened staff. What a shame!

9:56PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Signed, hope it helps.

9:00PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

I agree with Linda M- shame on the Catholic Church to prohibit birth control while children starve, and for soldiers to use rape as a weapon of war, which creates more children that will starve...

6:52PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Who was it who said suffer the little children, and they do in many places around the world,Some people do what they can,but it is never enough, and while war and religion continue,so will the children suffer.

6:11PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Make women's rights and birth control priorities in Somali! They have bred themselves out of water and food showing where this leads.

2:24PM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

Well said, Mrs. Shakespeare. I agree with you 100%.

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