Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is Western Aid Fueling Somalia's War?

Help us!
A two-month UN World Food Programme investigation has confirmed tons of food aid for starving Somalis are being stolen and sold in local markets.
Thieving businessmen and gunmen are undermining international famine relief efforts. Donated food is not even safe once it's given to the hungry refugees in the camps: they're often forced to hand back aid after journalists' photo-ops.
Help us...?
More than 3.2 million (nearly half Somalia's population) are in deep strife after a severe drought, complicated by Somalia's 20-year civil war. More than 450,000 live in famine zones controlled by al Qaeda-linked militants, where aid is hard to deliver. 29,000 kids under five have already died. UN had long expected some food aid to disappear, but the sheer scale of the theft calls into question aid groups' ability to reach the starving. It also raises concerns about the ability of aid agencies and the Somali fight corruption, and whether diverted aid is fueling the war.
The Al Shabab militia in the south snatches crops and animals from farms and, according to Human Rights Watch, have told the people to depend on God instead. It has banned about 20 humanitarian organisations as 'infidels', accusing them of pursuing religious or ideological motives. While the Transitional Federal Govt.of Somalia condemns any diversion of food aid, and claims zero tolerance towards corruption or crimes against food aid, the situation continues...
Um, aren't we already...?
So often these days, we hear aid being criticised as not doing what it's intended to do or helping the people it's intended to help. But even before aid efforts are needed, the West contributes to the problem. Mark Brown, former head of the UN Development Programme, says farm subsidies cost poor countries US$50 billion a year in lost agricultural exports: "The West spends $360 billion a year on protecting its agriculture, with a network of subsidies and tariffs that costs developing countries about US$50 billion in potential lost agricultural exports." Something is definitely wrong with "the system".
It seems a two-pronged attack on the problem is required:
(1) a complete re-evaluation (at a senior/binding level) of how tariffs hurt third world and struggling countries - with effective solutions found quickly - while simultaneously...
(2) sending a strong armed UN force (with a 'weapons-free' mandate) to protect supplies and workers at every stage of distribution, to ensure corruption reduction and starvation salvation.
Humanitarian disasters on this scale must be handled globally. As I've blogged before, if the UN cannot make a serious difference around the world...then why does it even exist?
The United Nations was created with righteous intent, but it has failed far more often than it has succeeded. It needs to grow a healthy set of balls. Fast!
PS: 26 Aug.2011 - Meanwhile, NZ's promised aid to Somalia hasn't turned up!
PS: 27 Aug.2011 - ...and African nations aren't exactly RUSHING to help Somalia!

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