Meanwhile, in the Horn of Africa….

…tens of thousands of children have died from the ongoing drought, and in fact, even though conditions have gotten worse, most of the international media has moved on to other things.  One who has not is the New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman, whose report two days ago from the ground was horrifying.  And westerners appear to be suffering from compassion overload.  Although the death toll might exceed 750,000, dwarfing previous droughts,

support — meaning dollars — has been frustratingly scant. While many more lives are at stake in Somalia’s crisis, other recent disasters pulled in far more money. For instance, Save the Children U.S. has raised a little more than $5 million in private donations for the Horn of Africa crisis, which includes Somalia and the drought-inflicted areas of Kenya and Ethiopia. That contrasts with what Save the Children raised in 2004 for the Indonesian tsunami ($55.4 million) or the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 ($28.2 million) or even the earthquake in Japan earlier this year ($22.8 million) — and Japan is a rich country.

It’s not just hunger: pastoralist communities near the border of Somalia are especially affected, as many families’ animals—upon which they depended completely for their livelihoods—have died because of the drought. Men from the communities often leave their homes and go to the cities to look for work, and women and children are left to fend for themselves.

And what happens when women and children are left to fend for themselves?  They get assaulted and raped; the drought zone has not approached eastern Congo as the most dangerous place on earth for women, but it is doing its best, so to speak.

It doesn’t help that at

a time when Somalia is suffering from the worst drought in 60 years, a ruthless militant group called the Shabab, which is essentially a Qaeda franchise, is on such an anti-Western tirade that it has banned Western music, Western dress, soccer, bras and even Western food aid. The Shabab are a heavily armed complication that differentiates this crisis from previous famines in Somalia, Ethiopia or Sudan and from other recent natural disasters like the tsunami in Indonesia or Haiti’s earthquake, where aid groups were able to rush in and start saving lives within a matter of hours….

People told me the Shabab were trying to prevent anyone from leaving and that Shabab fighters had even set up special camps where thousands of exhausted, hungry and sick people were corralled at gunpoint, an ideal breeding ground for disease, especially because the Shabab have also banned immunizations. It’s the perfect storm to kill countless children. Measles, typhoid and cholera are already beginning to sweep through the camps. Epidemiologists predict that the fatalities will shoot up and thousands of people will perish when the heavy rains come in November and December, spreading waterborne diseases.

Ken Menkhaus, a political science professor at Davidson College who has been working as a consultant on Somalia since the early 1990s, said the Shabab had pushed Somalia to a tipping point.

“The worst-case scenario is a Khmer Rouge situation where a group with a twisted ideology presides over the mass death of its own people,” he said. “The numbers are going to be horrifying.”

My response is to give to the American Jewish World Service, which has a series of long-running contacts with indigenous organizations.  Even when the Shabab won’t let western groups in, AJWS can work with local partners.  AJWS has also focused on the thousands of Kenyans across the Somali border who has been overwhelmed by the refugee influx and mostly ignored by other organizations.  And since AJWS has specialized for years in capacity-building with local partners, supporting them will probably do some sort of preventative work for the future.  Here’s a link to give to them, but there are many reputable organizations.

In any event, it’s going to be very ugly.



Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

16 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in the Horn of Africa….”

    1. Having 4B as a…erm…for lack of a better word ‘goal’ depends on the consumption rate.

  1. I have it on good authority that we should be optimistic about the future of the horn of Africa.

  2. Lars, please elaborate. I’d like to see who thinks the horn will be awesome sooner rather than later.

    1. Humans are so adaptable. This can only give their nerds incentive to work out better ways to survive droughts.

        1. Uhh, you do realize Lars is being sarcastic?
          And mocking the views of a certain economist poster on this blog?

  3. Ahem.

    Does anyone happen to remember whether or not the Islamic Court Union people were *so* bad that someone needed to get rid of them, making more room for these ones? It seems as if most Muslims are pretty clear on one thing: they don’t like Christian invasions.

    Maybe what we need is a nice moderate Muslim country that could help out Somalia. Like Turkey maybe. I often wonder if getting rid of the Ottoman Empire was the smart move, in hindsight.

    On the other hand, a Muslim invasion might not go over well either. This is a horrible situation, and I’m not sure why people here need to be so glib about it.

    1. Here’s why people are so glib about it:

      Salient points to note:
      – population in 1984 (Band Aid and all that — yeah yeah, Somalia, Ethiopia, whatever): 6.3 million
      – population today: 9.3 million
      – changes in the geography, farming habits, or anything else that makes Somalia capable of handling a larger population during this period: zero

      Another point to note:
      – the population was flat from around 1981 to around 1995. Malthus will not be denied. If war is going to keep the population sustainable (the essential story during those years) then famine (or disease — still a chance for that to come in) will do the job.

      This is NOT about racism. It’s not about ignoring “the other”. It’s about reality. That’s why no-one much cares.
      Truth is, in their heart of hearts, the very same people who insist that world population is not a problem, that magic (of some unspecified sort) will save us all, get a little queasy when they see this sort of reality — 50% growth in one generation. But an honest discussion about what’s going on could open a real can of worms. So people the world over shut their eyes, close their ears, and, try to pretend that what’s happening their has no, zero, none-whatsoever, relevance to the rest of us.

  4. This problem has festered for years. Remember when the Bush administration supported an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia? That didn’t end well. But what was the alternative? A US lead invasion? We need only look to the last invasion to see how well that will go. If there is a solution, I don’t see it.

  5. Are you people seriously suggesting that war and a fake “famine” are good because they cut down the population figures? Or that it is green to not give a sh*t? Or you’re all somehow “realists” instead of … well, what is the word for you? Oh but wait … I’ve lost interest in you.

    The quality of the company here is really going downhill. Somebody needs to clean house.

    See ya.

  6. Are you people seriously suggesting that war and a fake “famine” are good because they cut down the population figures?

    Such false premises have always been tiresome. Surely the cave men in southern France thought the same of the unwashed they were overrunning and procreating with at the same time.

  7. Why can’t people just get along? seriously i’m tired of people always having to put down others for trying to be postive. why did the world come to this?

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