Somalia is in the midst of a famine, suffering from the worst drought in 60 years. 29,000 Somali children have died within the past three months, and 100,000 Somalis are expected to die in the next few weeks. The al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab has destroyed the country, taking over much of the southern part of the country where it has imposed a strict version of Sharia law. The Taliban-like organization refuses to allow humanitarian organizations associated with the West to provide aid to the starving people. Al-Shabab expelled the U.N.’s World Food Programme, which had provided the bulk of the aid, from much of the country in January 2010, accusing it of being a U.S. proxy. Incredulously, some are blaming the U.S. for the famine, not al-Shabab.
For several years now the U.N. has described Somalia as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. 11.8 million people across Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti - generally Africa’s eastern peninsula known as the “Horn of Africa” - have been affected. According to the U.N., one quarter of Somali’s 9.9 million people have been displaced. More than 3.7 million people are in need of food and water, including 1.25 million children. 63 percent of southern Somalia is starving or at risk of it, and the U.N. reports that only 20 percent are being reached by relief workers. Every day 1,500 Somalis escape across the border to refugee camps in Kenya.
The country is undergoing an all-out war between al-Shabab and the Federal Transitional Government (FTG), which is supported by the West and African Union troops. Al-Shabab, which translates loosely as “the youth,” operates like the Taliban, ruthlessly murdering anyone who gets in its way of taking over the country and enforcing Sharia law.
The dilemma facing the international community is whether to provide more humanitarian aid, because it may be perpetuating the fighting. Al-Shabab has been stealing the aid to feed its militants and is also selling it, enabling it to continue fighting.
The people are not dying because of the famine; they are dying because al-Shabab is preventing relief from getting to them. Al-Shabab’s leader Sheikh Muktar Abu Zubeir declared recently, "Aid agencies and some countries declared famine and pretend they want to help you. They do so for these reasons: for trade purposes, to convert you from your religion and to colonise you.”