Spotted: Famine in Africa creates contention among commenters
Registered Internally Displaced Persons hold up their identity cards at a camp in Badbado, south of Mogadishu, Somalia, on July 17. (Abdurashid Abikar/ AFP/Getty)
Parts of southern Somalia are suffering from famine and tens of
thousands of Somalis have already died in the worst hunger emergency in a
generation, a UN official said Wednesday.
The UN needs $300 million in the next two months, said Mark Bowden, the agency's top official in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia.
Canada has contributed roughly $22.35 million for humanitarian assistance to the region this year, of which half has gone towards helping out the Somalia refugee situation. Oxfam urged Canada Wednesday to boost the total to $40 million.
"There is no time to waste if we are to avoid massive loss of life," Oxfam Regional Director Fran Equiza said in a statement. "We must not stand by and watch this tragedy unfold before our eyes. The world has been slow to recognize the severity of this crisis, but there is no longer any excuse for inaction."
Many community members spoke of feeling helpless and powerless to help:
- "These images are heartbreaking." wrote MadameMorticia. "Seeing these mothers helpless with their starving, suffering children makes me want to cry. I wish I could give those children some milk, juice or a rich stew. You feel powerless, half a world away, to do anything about this situation. I don't feel comfortable just donating money, I think it's questionable where that money will end up and I don't believe my monetary donation would go to putting nourishment in the belly of a child or easing the suffering worry of an effected mother. So what is a concerned person to do? How can a person touched by these images REALLY make a difference even for ONE child, one mother in this horrid situation? If anyone has any good, tangible, realistic idea, I wish you'd post it here! I'm at a loss."
- "I don't think anyone likes to see children suffer like this," said MarieOttawa. "I ask this as an honest question, not from a 'left' or a 'right' perspective, but as a human. People trying to deliver the aid are actively pushed away by dangerous warlords, and the money and food get stolen to buy more weapons. If we don't help, we are told we are neglecting them. If we do help, we are told we are interfering. Please, is there any hope at all?
Several commenters felt they'd heard it all before and no amount aid money ever seemed to make a difference:
- Skeptic5 wrote, "Like many of the posters here I am 'crisis-ed out' for Africa. It has been a basket case for as long as I can remember. I don't care anymore. But is there anything we could do to actually fix the problem, as opposed to just perpetuating it through more welfare????"
- "It is clear that immediate relief aid is necessary to prevent a famine, however our long term focus must change," wrote yorkke. "How long has this been going on? Forever. How much money has been given? Billions. How much has it helped? Nil. Remember that quote, the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Just giving money/labour never works. Change must come from within."
Conditions haven't been this bad since 1992, when hundreds of thousands
of Somalis starved to death. That famine prompted intervention by an
international peacekeeping force, but it eventually pulled out after two
American Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in 1993.
Somalia is the most dangerous country in the world to work in, according to the UN's World Food Program, which lost 14 relief workers in the past few years. Looting and attacks on aid convoys occur frequently.
Worries about the instability of the country and a feeling that money donated to charities won't reach those in need dominated much of the conversation:
- "Give me the name of a family that needs help and I will send what I can to help. Be it food or money. Canada Post and the government can set up some kind of operation there to make sure that my donation is personally handed to the family I can help", suggested mir7111. "I just don't trust charities anymore nor do I trust the corrupt Somali government."
- "We have seen time and time again aid not reaching those who really need it, added josie2050. "When nothing changes you start to question, why bother and become disgusted that no matter how much one gives it really never makes a difference."
- "What makes me lean on the side of not giving anything is the belief that if I do give money, it will end up in the hands of a warlord, who will further repress the people (or at least will steal the food my money bought)," explained JaMo51. " I hate to say this, but I think Africa needs to find a solution for Africa. If when a stable government is in place, and money is asked for, I would happily donate to help prepare then for another potential drought, or support them if it exceeds their disaster planning."
Will you be donating to famine relief in Africa? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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