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Hunger, politics and propaganda

· Obstacles to humanitarian action in Somalia ·

Aside from the delay in international financial aid, there are also questions of internal politics and even propaganda which are creating obstacles for humanitarian action in Somalia, where the consequences of drought are very severe. The obstacles are placing more than 12 million people in danger of death by famine, in vast regions of the Horn of Africa, North Kenya, southern Ethiopia, Djibouti, the Ugandan region of Karamojia and the whole of Somalia.

At an extraordinary meeting held on Monday at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome, requested by France which is currently heading the G20, the international community defined financial commitments, the funds for which will come from a conference of donators, this Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya. At the meeting, a program was agreed upon which will both avoid the impending catastrophe in the short-term as well as put in place long-term provisions for food security in the region.

From an operational point of view, it was established that the governments of the six countries hardest his by the crisis will manage the response, under the auspices of the Permanent Inter-agency Committee of the UN. The meeting emphasized that there is still a margin for intervening in support of the populations hardest hit, to re-launch the means of their subsistence and allow these communities of shepherds, farmers and fishermen to overcome the crisis. The plan would help to avoid the proliferation of refugee camps and the aggregation of enormous numbers of refugees.

The crucial question of the management of aid, however, is threatened in Somalia, where the government of President Sharif Ahmed, internationally recognized, does not in fact control large parts of the territory, especially the South, which is under the authority of the radical Islamic militia of al Shabaab, who are leading an insurrection against the government. The Somali vice-President, Mohamed Ibrahim, speaking at the meeting in Rome, asked the international community to open a humanitarian corridor to transport food aid. The Somali government has been unable to confront the insurrection on its own, and Mogadishu manages to resist only because of the assistance of Ugandan and Burundi troops of Amisom, the African Union in Somalia. Implicit, then, in Ibrahim’s request is international military protection for the humanitarian corridors, against those who, “for too long have not allowed the passage of assistance to the Somali people, affected by the very serious food crisis,” he said.

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