I’ve made the case before that the crisis in Somalia seems to hover perpetually on the edge of falling into the oblivion of international apathy. Today the UN World Food Program, which is working to feed over two million people in conditions of continually deteriorating chaos and insecurity, made an impassioned plea not to forget the dire humanitarian needs in the East African country.
“The international community must put Somalia at the top of its agenda and press for change before it is too late,” said Peter Goossens, WFP’s Country Director for Somalia. “We call on all authorities in Somalia to help us reach those in need and urge donors not to give up on this country.”
Specifically, WFP is calling for $10 million before July, at which point it will have seriously run out of most basic food staples. For the number of lives at stake, this seems a small price to pay.
Not to diminish the urgency of Somalia’s humanitarian disaster, the UN’s humanitarian and emergency relief coordinator, John Holmes, yesterday emphasized that achieving a political solution in the country is paramount to relieving its people’s distress.
“We can provide the means to keep people alive while that solution is being sought, but the solution is going to have to be based on political progress and a different security environment from the sort of ‘Wild West’ environment that prevails at the moment.”
This is the context in which to read the Secretary-General’s report that we discussed last week and in which the S-G laid out possible scenarios under which different forms of a peacekeeping force could deploy. Peacekeeping is in many ways is as vital to Somalis as humanitarian aid, but, as Mark stressed, it too will require a peace accord to be at its most effective.
Meanwhile, the U.S.’s continued support for the Ethiopian-back Transitional Government, combined with its overemphasis on counter-terrorism concerns — exemplified by the series of missiles that it has launched into the country, none of which hit their respective targets — has deeply alienated many Somalis. If the U.S. is committed to peace in Somalia, it must shift its attitude and invest its full support to the UN’s efforts to secure both negotiations and some form of peacekeeping force.