The Horn of Africa famine has already claimed 29,000 children under the age of five and shows no signs of abating. The images of emaciated babies with bones piercing through their skin and horror-struck mothers who have no choice but to abandon their lifeless children on the side of dusty roads are perhaps too difficult for most people to see. Avoiding the unspeakable seems human enough, but Bahrain’s Information Affairs Agency (IAA) could not continue to look away from the people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia who stare down death every day.
Brothers and sisters
Although Ramadan is now officially over, a holy month of spiritual reflection, fasting and mindful eating, and identification with the poor, adherents around the world have been keenly aware that many of their brothers and sisters in Somalia are enduring unbearable suffering. Now, with sweet-filled Eid festivities behind them, Muslims returning to their normal consumption behaviors may place their concentration elsewhere.
But the people of Somalia are not forgotten.
$4 million moral duty
Responding to their “religious, moral, and patriotic duty,” according to Gulf News, the IAA raised $4 million to be used to purchase food and set up health centers as needed in Somalia. Shaikh Fawaz Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa donated these funds to the Royal Charity Foundation, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.
But getting these funds to Somalia, which has been plagued by civil war over the last two decades, could be difficult. Spokepeople for the World Food Program recently reported that unscrupulous businessmen in the country are usurping up to half of the food sacks supplied by major organizations such as UNAID and the Japanese government. These are then sold from corrugated shacks for a profit.
Rogue elements in Somalia have long thwarted aid workers, but the WFP claims that withdrawing is not the answer to this challenge, since a cessation of assistance “would lead to many unnecessary deaths,” the Guardian reports. Meanwhile, investigating food theft has proven fatal to 14 WFP aid workers who have been killed since 2008.
Fleeing to Yemen
Refugee camps in Kenya have long since reached their healthy capacity, so many refugees desperate to flee the famine and violence in Somalia are risking the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. Already home to 192,000 Somalis, Yemen is itself one of the poorest, hungriest, and thirstiest countries in the world.
Earlier this month we urged readers to understand this drought and famine as a harbinger of things to come in the Middle East (Egypt is already on the brink of famine) unless serious measures are taken to curtail emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. We congratulate Bahrain’s generous outpouring of support, but we need to fix the root of this problem (there are many to be sure – economic, environmental, and political), and we need to fix it on a global scale.
:: Gulf News
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image via Pressenza Creative Commons