UN Declares Famine in Somalia: Why Isn’t the US Helping?


For the first time in 19 years, the UN declared that a famine has engulfed several regions of Somalia, the drought-stricken country from which hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing.  An estimated 11 million people are in desperate need of food assistance.  In southern Somalia, according to the UN, over 300,000 people are suffering from acute malnutrition.  But cumbersome legislative hurdles, created in response to Somalia’s turbulent political situation, are making it difficult for the United States to offer aid.

The last time the UN declared a famine in the region was in 1984-85, when 1 million people died in Ethiopia.  According to the Guardian, a famine is technically defined as:

“A mortality rate of more than two people per 10,000 per day; acute malnutrition reaching more than 30%; water consumption becoming less than four litres a day; and intake of kilocalories of 1,500 a day compared with the recommended 2,100 a day.”

The refugees who are fleeing to camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are arriving with malnutrition, which is proving especially deadly for small children.  The camps are ill-equipped to handle the volume of people who need their help, in part because aid has been slow in coming.  In parts of Somalia, 1 in 10 children are at risk of starving to death.  Oxfam has accused several European countries (France, Italy and Denmark) of “willful neglect” with regard to the crisis.

If we don’t act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks,” said Mark Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.  ”We still do not have all the resources for food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis in desperate need.”

The United States has legislative and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome before aid can be sent.  In 2009, Somalia’s militant Islamic governing group, al-Shabaab, banned foreign aid groups from the country.  Now they have reversed the ban, showing just how severe the crisis is.  Many US-funded groups are eager to return to Somalia, but they are still blocked by legal restrictions against aid to the country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she would “test” whether al-Shabaab is ready to receive help for its citizens, but with famine conditions, assistance can’t come quickly enough.  A humanitarian crisis is clearly looming, and Somalia, as well as its neighboring countries, need all the help they can get.

Don’t delay!  Sign the Care2 petition, telling President Obama and his administration to make aid to Somalia a priority.

Related Stories:

Actress Kristin Davis Breaks Down Over Conditions in Somalia

Thousands of Children Die as They Flee Somalia’s Drought

Somali Refugee Camps “Barely Fit For Humans”

Photo from expertinfantry via flickr.


Don Isaksen
Don I.5 years ago

@Linda M,
Suffice it to say, my wife and I care greatly about the poor and needy. We don't feel it's necessarily the governments obligation to provide the care. In fact, we don't really want the government involved. When private citizens donate food and money to private, volunteer programs, virtually 100% of the food and donations get into the hands of the poor and needy. With government programs, you're luck if 60% of the money allocated to run the programs actually gets into the hands of the poor and needy

Don Isaksen
Don I.5 years ago

@Linda M, - Continued -
I don't agree with a lot of what's going on politically in Canada, but I certainly do not have anti-Canadian feeling for either the people or the government. One of my older brothers lives in Parksville, BC (on Vancouver Island) and his son lives in Okanogan Falls, BC. My brother moved to Mannville, Alberta in 1969, where he taught high school. His wife was an Administrator for the local college in that area. Can't remember if the office was in Vermillion or Mannville. After they retired (about 13 years ago, they moved to BC.

You don't know me, so how can you infer I don't want to care for our own citizens. I would suspect I do as much (or more) for our citizens, as you do yours. My wife and I buy and donate numerous cases of food, and donate (what we can afford ($600-$800.00) yearly to various organizations who care for the needy. Twice each week, my older sister and I deliver large bags of food to no less than 80 (up to 125) needy families. My sister has been doing it for over 40 years. I've been doing it for just over 6 years. We have also donated time and money in support of victims from the Katrina hurricane, the Haiti earthquake, the midwestern flooding, and the Japanese tsunami victims. Over the past three years, I've personally refurbished and given (free) over 80 computer systems to needy people, to handicapped people trying to make a living from home, and to people who do after school tutoring. Suffice it to say, my wife a

Don Isaksen
Don I.5 years ago

@Linda M, - Continued -
The government repays hospitals for the care given to the poor people (and illegal aliens too). In your country people also may not die or lose their homes for lack of health care, but where do a large number of Canadians go when they want fast and better health care for major illnesses or surgeries? They come to the US. How many US citizens go up to Canada for health treatments? Virtually NONE.

I think your educational system (if you live in Canada) is much better than our public school systems. I don't know that your standard of living far outranks ours, but I do know there are areas in some, of the largest cities in OUR country, that have some real garbage pits to live in. Most of those garbage pits are that way because the people living in them could give a rats butt about the conditions they live in. Even poor people can clean up the places they live in.

Ditto on your comment "Thank you, my country, though not perfect is fine as are many others" You and I both have a great love for our countries. I suspect if I railed against your country as you have been doing against mine, you would be just as offended at my remarks as I am about yours against my country. IF you live in Canada, you are living in a country I believe IS a great country (just like ours). I don't agree with a lot of what's going on politically in Canada, but I certainly do not have anti-Canadian feeling for either the people or the politics. One of my older br

Don Isaksen
Don I.5 years ago

@Linda M, - Continued -
You want info about US aid to Rwanda, go to the below link and read it. The US has been sending aid to Rwanda since 1960'ish. The reason for the cutoff of aid during the Rwanda genocide was because 13 of the aid workers were killed during that uprising. What kind of aid did your country send during the genocide? I suspect not much (if any). Aid to Rwanda from virtually all countries stopped during the uprising and genocide.


SO, you claim a few US tourists wear Canadian lapel pins when they are tourists. IF that's a fact (which I have a hard time believing), what's the point? Most tourists I know of don't wear lapel pins of any kind. US interference isn't the cause of the rise of terrorism and instability in the world. Try taking a look at radical Islam for that one. Radical Islam could care less about what other countries are doing. Their intent is to rule over all countries that do not follow their assinine, warped interpretation of the Kuran. They are even at war with other, peace loving Muslims who don't believe in their radical agenda.

People don't lose their homes or die from lack of health care in our country. Our countries Medicaid Program covers poor peoples health needs if they apply for it. Besides that, most hospitals in America have slush funds to cover the cost of people without health insurance. The government eventually repays hospitals for the care given to the poor

Don Isaksen
Don I.5 years ago

@Linda M,
"A flag, a bugle & BS=citizenship" in your country?? Maybe the illegal aliens flooding into our country because it's such a bad place, should be redirected to your country instead if that's all that's required for citizenship. I'm kind of with you when you infer you're anti-American people when they are dumb enough to believe the gov't propaganda. I'm not a real fan of anyone who believes the total BS coming from our current Presidents Administration, and his band of crooks. Wasn't really happy with some of the garbage that happened during the Bush Administration either.

Either you don't know your history very well, or just choose to disregard the real circumstances for going back into Iraq. Maybe you remember when Iraq took over Kuwait, and also started firing SCUD missiles into Israel and Saudi Arabia. The takeover of Kuwait sparked the buildup of a 34 nation (your country included) UN authorized coalition headed by US forces. They drove Iraq out of Kuwait, but stopped short of removing Sadam Hussein from power (bad mistake). IF oil was the reason for the Iraq war, why would the war have been stopped after pushing Iraq out of Kuwait? After several years, and 16 UN resolutions directing Iraq to abide by the cease fire agreements were neglected by Sadam, the second war in Iraq was started. WMD's were part, but not the only reason for going back into Iraq.

You want info about US aid to Rwanda, go to the below link and read it. The US has been

Lauren Savard
Lauren Savard5 years ago

We do have our own problems. However, I am almost certain that what is happening in Somalia outweighs our own. I am willing to donate money, and I know that there are millions of Americans out there who feel the same way. Who's with me? I just hope that the aid will actually GET to the people who need it. Still, I think we should at least try, with all of our might, and then some.

colleen p.
colleen p.5 years ago

maybe people have a "the people in Somalia are worse off than in the US, so they need the help first, because of xyz"

Christine S.

Al Qaida (sp) militants aren't letting aid get through, or they are demanding bribes to allow supplies to get to starving people! Don't blame the U.S. for not providing an adequate response when there are nut jobs in the way. Get islamic nations to knock the terrorists out of the way and allow help to get to the needy.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 5 years ago

USA-USA-USA.There Don. A flag, a bugle & BS=citizenship.I'm anti-US government, not people except when they are dumb enough to believe the gov't propaganda.Invade Iraq (WMD's never found) when Saudi Arabia & Yemen launched 9/11.Arm & train the Taliban vs Russians, then they turned on you so you had to invade.Somalia already outlined.Where was the US for the Rwanda genocide (800,000 dead in 3 weeks).Nothing of use there.Why do US tourists wear Canadian lapel pins?Don't want to be recognized.US interference (financial & military, clandestine & overt) has caused the current rise in terrorism & instability in the world.How would the US like it if foreigners invaded you, remember 9/11.
At least in my country people don't die or lose their homes for lack of health care.Our educational system far outranks yours.Standard of living, higher.Thank you, my country, though not perfect is fine as are many others not clammering to beat down your door.
Who wants to take care of its own people in need?Obviously not you.

Don Isaksen
Don I.5 years ago

@Linda M,
Somehow, I thought this thread was about Amelia's article that infers America was not sending aid to Somalia. My comments were made to point out the article was BS, just like your unfounded and completely irresponsible claims inferring the situation in Somalia is America's fault, ... America went into Afghanistan for control and an oil pipeline, ... and went into Iraq for oil. Typical Anti-American BS.

The life saving aid our country sends to other countries with starving people, is the proper thing to do. At least it's a heck of a lot better than spending it on any rapid or mass transit boondogle that leaves tax payers on the hook to subsidize other peoples transportation (talk about bottomless pits). For people who want mass or rapid transit, let them and the users of the system cover the whole cost of running the operation. There are very few, if any, rapid transit systems that have worked as they should, and not become a huge burden to the tax payers who don't use them.

Take care of our own first, is a great concept, but that doesn't mean it's our governments responsability to take care of everyone. Our private citizens provide more aid to help people in need, both at HOME and abroad, than any other country in the world. Please take a look at your own country (whichever that is) and worry about what's going on there before you start trying to tell the rest of the world what's wrong with it.