Why does it take the world so long to respond to starving people?
This week, the United Nations tells us there’s a full blown famine underway in southern Somalia, that tens of thousands of people already have died and that it needs $300-milion in the next two months to address the problem.
My question is where was the U.N. when a thousand people had died and it would have taken much less to address the problem? The answer is that in large part, aid agencies were prevented from doing work in the region because of the Islamists who insisted that they did not want help and would prefer to see their people die rather than let the aid agencies bring in food and water for those people, especially since some areas in the region have not had such a low rainfall in 60 years, the aid group Oxfam said.
It was almost 30-years ago that Brian Stewart, the CBC reporter, showed us the first images out of Ethiopia where a similar famine was underway – then, as now, it took a long time for the western governments to crank up their response and begin to deliver assistance. By the time they got there, it was too late for thousands and thousands who had perished in the drought and heat. It’s almost as if someone had pushed replay on the video screen – again, local governments have stood in the way of aid delivery, preferring to see their people die rather than allowing assistance to come in – and then blaming the west for not responding earlier.
Neighbouring Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya have also been badly affected, and Eritrea is also believed to be hard hit, though its repressive government does not release figures. Oxfam says the drought has been exacerbated by poor governance and neglect, war in Somalia and land policies that restrict grazing land for nomadic communities.
NATO rushes in where there is self-interest involved. What will it take to change the leadership mindset in the west that the same determination for regime change is as necessary in Africa as it is in the Middle East?