The famine in Somalia is currently threatening around 10 million people that cannot meet their basic survival needs and of which 30% are malnourished. The international blame falls on the “worst drought in 60 years” in East Africa, the failure of authorities to build resilience and mass displacement of people.
The response is directed at controlling the famine, however what officials call “the scandal of the century” does not refer to the lack of response, but the lack of prevention in an area where draught is a recurring phenomenon.
The international pledged money is targeting long-term local farming projects. In response to the crisis, the “European Commission” is allocating 27.8 million Euros, on top of the 70 million Euros already given this year. The aim is to provide food and nutrition to the most vulnerable households and protect the livestock. However, the process will prove challenging due to the so-called gap between humanitarian aid and sustainable development, a problem still persisting in the humanitarian community. Also, one should ask whether top down donor-driven “sustainable development” programmes is really compatible with systems of governance ruled by extremist groups. Compared to Kenya and Ethiopia who are also affected by drought but already have resilience mechanisms in place, Somalia seems to be at high risk due to worsening security, mass population displacement, and political instability. So far, only the “Red Cross” has managed to reach people in the rebel-controlled areas.
The Somali famine remains a good example of the contrast between what humanitarian community strives for (prevention, response, recovery and sustainable development) and what it can actually achieve: emergency relief.
While delivering food in famine-affected areas proved to be a failed policy, the agenda is rightfully redirecting aid towards building safety nets and developing the agricultural sector. How this approach will succeed in a complex emergency situation, it is still yet to be seen.