The East African country of Somalia is one which faces many hardships. Violence, poverty and human rights violations are some of the highest-ranking issues, but the major focus of late has been the severe, ongoing drought that has impacted the nation since 2015.
The lack of water has inflicted suffering upon the entire region; however, conditions are improving since this time last year, largely due to U.S. humanitarian assistance in the region. In addition to supporting the nation, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Somalia.
A National Disaster
In February of 2017, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared a national disaster due to the onset of an extreme drought in the country.
In a meeting with the National Drought Committee, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire remarked, “my estimation is that half the country has felt the impact of this drought.” Millions of people were in desperate need of food, and Somalia was on the verge of famine.
Famine is a constant fear among the Somali people, as such an incident occurs often and has devastating consequences on the community. The last famine in Somalia occurred from 2010 to 2012 and was brought on by the East Africa Drought — a natural occurrence that resulted in nearly 260,000 deaths by starvation in the region.
This was considered the worst famine in a quarter century, but many more have taken place before, including one in 1992 which left approximately 300,000 dead.
U.S. Humanitarian Aid
To prevent the situation from becoming this severe again, the U.S. stepped up its humanitarian efforts in the country. USAID provided $187.77 million of foreign aid to Somalia in the 2017 fiscal year that included emergency assistance to approximately 2.7 million people per month from July to December.
These operations consisted of large donations of food, provision of food vouchers, access to safe drinking water, vocational training, medical assistance and employment opportunities in local marketplaces.
According to the most recent report on conditions in Somalia from USAID, this help significantly reduced the risk of famine. Between July of 2017 and February 2018, there has been a 17 percent decline in the acutely malnourished population — a major accomplishment considering the relatively short amount of time over which intervention has taken place.
U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Somalia
There are many ways from which the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Somalia. According to a report by the World Food Program, food insecurity is a “threat and impact multiplier for violent conflict.” When people are starving and looking for any way out, they may engage in violent activities if a terrorist organization promises food or money in exchange.
Somalia is one of the most unstable countries in the world, especially with the terrorist group al-Shabaab on the rise. It is important for the U.S. to take any measure possible to prevent the spread of violent conflict, and reducing food insecurity is a small way to aid in that effort.
By contributing to solving Somalia’s famine crisis, the U.S. actively takes steps to ensure its own national security.
Another way the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Somalia is that by extending a helping hand to a country in need, the U.S. simultaneously establishes a friendship between itself and the Somali government. This collaboration may advance our foreign policy agenda in the future.
According to political science expert Clair Apodaca, foreign aid “allows the donor state access and influence in the domestic and foreign affairs of other states.”
Mutual Benefits in Times of Crisis
By offering humanitarian assistance in times of crisis, the U.S. gains leverage over the way Somalia governs its country. With this influence, the nation may be able to achieve its objectives to strengthen democratic institutions and improve stability in the region.
Lastly, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Somalia because providing helpful programs and funding to people who are suffering improves our image as a leader in the global community.
Such actions demonstrate that the U.S. is an ethical and reliable partner, which can improve our favorability in the eyes of foreign leaders and ultimately help our diplomatic and trade relations.
Still Work To Do
Though U.S. foreign aid has helped Somalia avoid falling into a full-fledged famine, the country is by no means out of harm’s way. Rainfall is expected to be below average from April to June again this year, and around 5.4 million people are still experiencing either “stressed” or “crisis” level food insecurity.
It is important that the U.S. continue its humanitarian assistance programs in Somalia throughout 2018, and for as long as it takes to restore the country to a relatively stable state because by doing so, the nation is not only promoting the interests of Somalia, but of the U.S. as well.
– Maddi Roy