Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

When Millions Die of Hunger and Thirst – Do We Care?

By Shlomo Maital

 Somali refugee: “I don’t know what to do!”   

I write this, sitting in a comfortable easy chair, watching TV and sipping a cold drink.  What I am watching is the unfathomable misery of millions of Somalis, who are helpless in the face of drought and civil war. 

  According to the website Huffpost, 

   “the head of the U.N. refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, speaking in Dadaab, Kenya,  said Sunday that drought-ridden Somalia is the “worst humanitarian disaster” in the world after meeting with refugees who endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world’s largest refugee camp.  The Kenyan camp, Dadaab, is overflowing with tens of thousands of newly arrived refugees forced into the camp by the parched landscape in the region where Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya meet. The World Food Program estimates that 10 million people already need humanitarian aid. The U.N. Children’s Fund estimates that more than 2 million children are malnourished and in need of lifesaving action.”

  There are already 390,000 people in the camp, whose maximum capacity is only 90,000.  Kenya is reluctant to admit any more refugees from Somalia.  And Somali radical Muslim gangs – the Shabab – kill UN personnel who dare to enter Somalia to offer humanitarian aid. 

        “Guterres spoke with a Somalia mother who lost three of her children during a 35-day walk to reach the camp. Guterres said Dadaab holds “the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.” “I became a bit insane after I lost them,” said the mother, Muslima Aden. “I lost them in different times on my way.” Guterres is on a tour of the region to highlight the dire need. On Thursday he was in the Ethiopian camp of Dollo Ado, a camp that is also overflowing.”

   Somalia is abysmally poor, ranking 224th in the world in per capita income. It achieved independence in 1960, and has been torn by civil war since 1991.  It is a nation essentially without a government.  It is bordered by Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia. Ethiopia at times has sent soldiers into Somalia, to establish some order, but it was futile.      

    Scenes on TV from Dadaab are horrendous. Yet I wish there were far more.  I wish they would be shown every single night, to wake up the world.   As world population touches 7 billion, and as climate change produces terrible droughts on several continents, I fear Somalia is only the first act in a long series of tragedies.   I don’t see how any of us can remain comfortable or complacent, in the face of such horrible suffering.