It is no secret that the countries most affected by climate change are the least equipped to combat the implications. Much of Somalia is dependent on livestock and agriculture, and more than half the population is now in dire need of humanitarian assistance after two seasons of poor rainfall. There have been many causes of poverty in Somalia that have left the country unable to aid its own citizens — in fact, the U.N. estimates a need for $864 million to assist 3.9 million people.
Leading Causes of Poverty in Somalia
The War on Hunger
Famine looms as a very viable threat. In just 48 hours, 110 people died from starvation and drought-related illness in rural Somalia. The drought is more severe in the country’s rural regions. Many Somalis from these areas took to the road out of necessity. Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu offers feeding centers and food distribution.
Like most, Fadumo Abdi Ibrahim made the 30km journey on foot with her nine-month-old malnourished son in arms. While she was fortunate to complete the trek, others were not so lucky. “We found several bodies of children on the road,” Ibrahim said. The malnourished children died in their mothers’ arms; mothers too weak to carry the small corpses the rest of the way.
Like Ibrahim, Somalia travelled a long and challenging road to arrive at its current state of affairs. There are many causes of poverty in Somalia. The following are a few of the most significant.
In the early 1980s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank instigated an intervention in Somalia and imposed economic and agricultural reforms in hopes of spurring development.
In theory, macroeconomic development seems reasonable.
POVERTIES is an online publication reporting social scientific research and information on economic development, public policy, human rights and discrimination. One article helps to simplify the damages of neoliberal reforms. The neoliberal ideology consistently follows a pattern of “currency devaluation for cheap exports and cheap labor, trade liberalization by opening the borders to world trade (and to global competitors), reducing budget deficits through massive cuts in the public sector and reduction of social services.”
Somali met with many of these consequences thanks to the IMF’s reformations. Unemployment, extremely limited wages and higher food prices proved among the most punishing.
Somalia was largely self-sufficient in food until the 1970s. Its economy was based on an exchange relationship between herdsmen and agriculturalists. The IMF’s economic reforms undermined these fragile relationships, victimizing food distribution and the agricultural economy.
Since the collapse of the country’s last government in 1991, social and political order in Somalia presents itself in the form of clans. The situation has proved surprisingly less violent than expected. Most conflict, however, is rooted in land and water resources. There is a necessary method within this madness: for many Somalis, access to such resources is dependent on their clan — that is, if they have a clan at all.
Again, the causes of poverty in Somalia are countless, but the IMF and the loss of a centralized government certainly caused the greatest damage.
Somalia’s traditional pastoral economy presented itself as the perfect project for modernization, but forced reformation led the population towards a fight for survival. The reforms devastated Somalia’s agricultural sector, and war and civil war further strained essential resources (as well as other factors too numerous to list).
When the rain stopped, the entire population was at the mercy of drought, with no centralized government to provide relief from impending famine.
The fate of more than half of all Somalis now lies in the hands of foreign and humanitarian aid. Somalia and its citizens like Ibrahim have fought to make it this far on a challenging journey; the question is, will help be waiting to greet them?
– Sophie Nunnally