Humanitarian aid to SomaliaThe U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on July 24, 2022, that the U.S. would provide $476 million in humanitarian aid to Somalia after an unprecedented drought drastically increased the risk of famine. More than 7 million people could face famine due to this drought. Hence, amid this looming famine, this aid seeks to provide “urgent food supplies” and offer necessary nutrition support to children facing acute malnourishment.

The Current State of Somalia

Somalia is currently in a state of climate emergency after experiencing “a fourth failed rainy season,” which plunged the nation into drought. This has caused conditions of mass famine, disease and displacement. After a recent trip to Somalia, Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council’s secretary general, describes the situation on the ground. Farmers had “lost all their livestock and crops,” children face severe malnourishment and parents beg for food and water to meet their daily needs.

Drought is not a new phenomenon in Somalia and has detrimentally impacted the social and economic stability of the country in the past decade. Since the beginning of 2021, the drought has forcefully displaced more than 800,000 people. With the most recent drought fostering a significant hunger crisis, the number of people experiencing crisis levels of hunger could increase “from less than five million to more than seven million in the coming months.” While drought in Somalia primarily fuels mass displacement and famine, it also generates “violent conflicts over water and grazing land, rising costs of basic goods and the destruction of crops and livestock herds.”

The intertwining of factors affecting food security in Somalia evidently worsens the situation. These factors include the COVID-19 pandemic, locust plagues and “continued recovery from previous droughts.” The Russian war in Ukraine also contributes to the state of food insecurity in Somalia as roughly “90% of Somalia’s wheat imports came from Russia and Ukraine.” The invasion has led to the blockage of grain supplies and a surge in food prices.

The US Response

To respond to this critical situation, the U.S. announced that it would provide $476 million worth of humanitarian aid to Somalia. Taking this most recent humanitarian funding into consideration, this would mean that the U.S. has provided close to $707 million in humanitarian assistance for people in Somalia in 2022 alone. This recent humanitarian aid sum is expected to allow USAID to accomplish several objectives to help millions across Somalia. These include providing:

  • Emergency food and nutrition aid. Cash-based transfers will allow Somalis to buy essential food from local markets to reignite the economy while addressing hunger. In areas without local markets, USAID will provide vulnerable families with sorghum, vegetable oil and yellow split peas. To address malnutrition among children, USAID will implement “community-level screening” to quickly identify severe acute malnutrition cases. USAID will then supply specialized nutritional supplements to these children.
  • Emergency health care services along with clean and safe drinking water sources. Part of this response includes supplying “latrines and handwashing stations, rehabilitated water and sanitation systems and hygiene kits.” In addition, mobile health teams will provide health services to isolated people in rural areas, among other efforts.
  • Support and protection services in response to gender-based violence. With women and children being disproportionately vulnerable to gender-based violence, USAID will provide comprehensive aid, including psychosocial support, medical resources and health care services.

The Implications

While financial aid is extremely helpful in dealing with the impact of drought, there remain significant funding shortfalls. As opposed to the $1.3 billion donated by international donors in 2017, so far, in 2022, the figure only stands at $500 million. USAID has expressed a pressing need for more international donors to help address the impacts of several climate-related catastrophes and food insecurity in Somalia.

The U.S. provision of $476 million in humanitarian aid to Somalia gives the country’s citizens hope for a better tomorrow. It remains critical for Somalia’s global partners to contribute to the widespread efforts to alleviate the impacts of the looming famine fueled by the recent drought.

– Claudia Efemini
Photo: Flickr

What was the Kosovo Conflict?

Starting in February 1998 and lasting until June 1999, the Kosovo Conflict was essentially ethnic Albanians being in opposition to ethnic Serbs and the government of Yugoslavia in Kosovo. Problems of the Kosovo Conflict were both widespread and numerous, despite only lasting for less than two years. Considering the issues it caused, it is important to understand what the Kosovo Conflict was in a broader sense.

The Kosovo Conflict began in response to Albanians being in the majority of the population in an area that was held in high regard by the Serbs. In addition, Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Albanians in Kosovo, sought to nonviolently protest Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Serbian Republic at the time. Tensions gradually rose between the two groups and resulted in the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Beginning two years prior to the start of the war in 1996, the KLA sporadically attacked Serbian politicians and police. The attacks gradually escalated and led to the actions of the KLA being classified as an armed uprising, resulting in the Kosovo Conflict. The Serbian police force, along with Yugoslav armed forces, tried to regain control of the territory. Attempts to regain control of the region led to widespread media attention and a slew of refugees from the area.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was instrumental in ending the Kosovo Conflict. After NATO had exhausted its diplomatic attempts to find peace in Kosovo, they turned to Operation Allied Force. Allied Force was the first time in NATO history in which military action took place against a sovereign state outside NATO territory. After 77 days of Allied Force, Milosevic agreed to NATO’s demands. One million refugees were able to safely return to Kosovo.

However, along with the influx of refugees from the region, the war resulted in various negative consequences. Problems of the Kosovo Conflict included damage to trade routes and transportation, a loss of confidence in consumers and investors, weakened infrastructure and increased stress on the economy.

Unfortunately, the response to the consequences of the Kosovo Conflict was not sufficient. Humanitarian organizations in place that represented the international community were simply not prepared to deal with the large-scale effects of the war. Training and guidelines were typically bypassed, and some members of the military admitted that guidelines were lacking.

Conflict in the region is still at an all-time high today. In January 2018, a Serbian train bearing signs saying, “Kosovo is Serbian,” was stopped on its way to enter Kosovo due to reports of a planned attack by Albanians. Kosovo officially declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but this is not recognized by Serbia or its ally, Russia. Hopefully, the region will be able to find peace, but it seems that the problems that arose from what was the Kosovo Conflict continue to persist 20 years later.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian EffortsDeputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Akdağ, announced at the World Humanitarian Day celebration on August 19 that Turkey is one of the leading countries in humanitarian aid.

Coming in second behind the United States, Turkey contributed one of the largest amounts of humanitarian aid to countries in need in 2016. While the United States has contributed $6.3 billion of humanitarian aid to areas in need in 2016, Turkey contributed a close $6 billion. This is an improvement, as Turkey was third in humanitarian efforts in 2013, 2014 and 2015. After nearly doubling its humanitarian aid from $3.2 billion in 2015 to $6 billion in 2016, it moved up to number two.

In addition to the abundance of financial aid, Turkey has contributed food, health and education resources to specific countries including Somalia, Uganda, Bangladesh and Syria.

Held every year on August 19, World Humanitarian Day is a celebration in tribute to the aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service. Assemblies occur to increase support for people who are affected by crises around the world. European Union (EU) representative Gabrial Munera-Vinals spoke at the World Humanitarian Day celebration and announced that attacks on humanitarian aid workers have increased in recent years.

In 2016, 288 humanitarian aid workers were killed, injured or kidnapped. In the past two decades, over 4,000 humanitarian workers have been victims of such attacks. Says Munera-Vinals,”On World Humanitarian Day, we pay tribute to, and honor, all those who risk their lives while bringing assistance to victims of wars and national disasters worldwide. We commend the bravery of all men and women who continue to work selflessly for the benefits of others.”

Turkey’s humanitarian efforts have received recognition because, although Turkey is not the richest country, it persists in its efforts to help other struggling nations.”We salute the countless Turkish men and women who work as humanitarians in Turkey and around the globe,” Munera-Vinals says.

If Turkey continues on its current trajectory of humanitarian efforts, thousands of people in struggling countries will receive the help that they need, and Turkey might one day come first in humanitarian aid.

Kassidy Tarala
Photo: Flickr

Counter-terrorism laws enacted by the U.S. and U.K. are proving detrimental to potential relief efforts in certain parts of Somalia.

Somalia is experiencing the worst drought in the region in 40 years, which is threatening an estimated six million people with famine.  Two million of these people are occupying areas run by al-Shabaab.

Somalia is a country in eastern Africa that has been riddled with political turmoil and instability. Al-Shabaab, or “The Youth” as is translated from Arabic, have contributed heavily to some of the issues in Somalia. They are a product of the radical youth wing of Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts (which is no longer in existence). Al-Shabaab is banned by both the U.S. and U.K. as an active terrorist group.

For the non-radical starving and dehydrated citizens of these Somalian regions, the “bans” and anti-terrorism laws affect humanitarian efforts from reaching them. Humanitarian officials say that these laws are discouraging them from sending support for fear of prosecution, as it is impossible for them to ensure that no aid gets into the hands of members of al-Shabaab. If it did, these organizations would be at risk of going to court and possibly even being shut down.

In addition to just the aid itself, the moving of said relief aid by land in Somalia involves paying “taxes” at roadblocks that are run by various armed groups — some of which are controlled by al-Shabaab, which received an estimated $180,000 per year from aid groups at these road blocks in 2010.

David Concar, the British ambassador to Somalia, said this in an interview recently about the degree at which anti-terrorism laws affect humanitarian efforts in Somalia: “[Counter terrorist] legislation is not intended to stop — and nor should it actually stop — any aid groups from working in such areas as long as they have the necessary controls in place and they’re not deliberately supporting terrorists.”

Despite this apparent clarification, the counter-terrorism laws are still very present, and anxiety among these aid organizations remains, who say need clearer guidance from the U.S. and the U.K. in regard to relief efforts in Somalia. Politically, this “guidance” is hard to execute, as it could be interpreted as negotiations with a terrorist group.

The last major famine in Somalia was in 2011. An estimated 250,000 died as, at the very least, a contributing result of these strict anti-terrorism laws, when little to no aid made it to al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Female Peacekeepers
Nearly 16 years ago, in response to the disproportionate amount of violence against women in countries enduring post-war conflicts, the U.N. adopted resolution 1325. The resolution targets the issue that when countries that have achieved reform, the post-war conflicts frequently bring more violence, specifically more violence toward women.

The U.N. Security Council resolution 1325 calls for the inclusion of women in all efforts maintaining and promoting peace and security. Even though the likelihood of achieving peace increases when female peacekeepers are included in the discussion, women living in countries that are at war often remain ignored.

Research has confirmed that women are a significant influence in promoting peace. Also, humanitarian efforts are more effective with women’s participation. The inclusion of female peacekeepers yields stronger protection efforts for U.N. peacekeepers, contributes to the implementation of peace talks, and accelerates economic recovery.

Experience has shown the inclusion of women in U.N. peacekeeping missions elicits more trust in communities and result in peace operations that are more customarily fit to a communities’ protection needs. Peace negotiations recommended by women are more likely to be accepted and retained.

However, women in countries where terrorism and extremism are prevalent face disparity, and the fragile state contexts affect their rights. Women often are forced into marriage, forced to engage in sexually based crimes prohibited to get an education or get a job or even engage in public life.

Despite the strides made by the U.N. to integrate women into the peace-building agenda to combat these problems, there has not been much progress since the resolution was first adopted by countries in 2000. There have been reports of incidents wherein U.N. peacekeepers preserved sexual violence and stood by as women were raped. The inclusion of women in peacekeeping operations could diminish the chances of this occurring.

In order to better serve women, the individuals most affected by post-war conflicts, there must be women within the peacekeeping force. Having female peacekeepers who can understand the difficulties and threats women face will better enable the effort to ensure safety. Thus, enforcing a concrete number of women to be included in peace operations is a way to hold U.N. peacekeeping operations accountable.

Although war impacts all, women can address this issue and improve conditions for women more so than men, yet women continue to be excluded from peace talks. 55 countries have adopted national strategies to implement the resolution, and an additional 10 have pledged to do so.

It is still up in the air whether these countries’ political wills for the inclusion of women in peace talks be translated into political action. In order for U.N. peacekeepers to actually fulfill their political wills, it would be accommodating for them to provide a target number of female peacekeepers to include in their peacekeeping operations.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

The Peace Corps is a unique arm of the US government first started in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy when he tried to inspire younger generations to serve their country “in the cause of peace, living and working in developing countries.” Since then, the agency has continued with bi-partisan support, expanding its reach and impact by sending American volunteers around the world to help developing communities.

The Peace Corps has three underlying goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Currently, there are 8,073 volunteers in the field, in 76 countries around the world, primarily working on education based programs. In the past, many Senators and representatives from both parties have served as Peace Corps volunteers. It is the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and House Committee on Foreign Affairs that provides the oversight of all activities and programs. Its annual budget is determined by the congressional budget – generally amounting to about 1 percent of the foreign operations budget.

The video above talks of the tremendous progress that has been made in preventing Malaria deaths through the Peace Corps’ work. They have found that no one “fix” works across the board, and each community is different. So Peace Corps workers have to adapt to each new situation and time. A great example of creative thinking is talked about in the video – in Senegal, where local villagers were not really utilizing their mosquito nets. A PC volunteer used rice bags to visually represent the total money spent on Malaria medications by the locals, and once they saw how much they were spending they realized how much they could save by simply preventing Malaria and using a net. This simple demonstration helped change behavior that can now save lives.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Peace Corps
Video: You Tube

Canada Pledges $13 Million to Mali for Humanitarian EffortsIt seems that global media has been bouncing back and forth between reports on Mali and Syria. Both countries have been submerged in the mountainous political upheaval that many of us living here in the United States and other peaceful countries are not able to comprehend, due to no fault of ours. One way in which observers of these revolutions (yes these are revolutions and not merely protests or civil strife as the media chooses to call them) can help make a difference is by choosing on what issues to focus both their money and attention on. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took the first step towards the right direction earlier this week at a global donor meeting in Ethiopia. Canada has made humanitarian efforts.

According to the Canadian media, Canada’s $13 million aid to Mali for humanitarian purposes stood out among the millions of dollars pledged by other countries specifically for combat resources and other military costs for AFISMA (the African coalition of about 20 countries and 3500 troops fighting against the Islamists in Mali).

However, the BBC notes that donations from other countries, such as the United States, Germany, and China, are also directed towards “Afisma, humanitarian assistance, logistics, improving security and the future development of Mali”.

Nevertheless, the Canadian government withstood arguments made on behalf of the African Union to put more money and troops into AFISMA’s military campaign. Prime Minister Harper made it clear that Canada will no longer be sending troops but instead “will continue its lifesaving work in Mali through humanitarian and development assistance”.

When political unrest creates such horrid living conditions in a country at war, it is understandable how concerned countries may be caught in the middle of choosing between military or humanitarian assistance. However, it can be viewed as a cycle, where choosing which end to start with makes the difference. By becoming involved at the ground level in the villages, schools, and health centers, outside aid can create stability, survival, and small patches of peace, which will hopefully create an internal domino effect. These acts may not remove the Islamist forces from the north in Mali, but they surely create a more constructive path with fewer deaths instead of instigating fighting with tank and arms donations.

As governments make decisions on where to funnel their money, the people of Mali will be patiently waiting. For them, other than becoming refugees, there is not much they can do against hunger and weapons. While keeping in mind the importance of political stability and the different ways to achieve it, the African Union and future global-donor meetings will hopefully not call for special meetings focused on collecting only a certain kind of assistance, especially when that assistance is not for the basic survival needs of the people of Mali.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: CTV,BBC
Photo: CTV