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Suffering And Solutions In Somalia

Jacki Lyden in for Tom Ashbrook

We examine the worsening food crisis and famine in Somalia.

Mihag Gedi Farah, a seven-month-old child with a weight of 3.4kg, is held by his mother in a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in the town of Dadaab, Kenya, Tuesday, July 26, 2011. (AP)

Mihag Gedi Farah, a seven-month-old child with a weight of 3.4kg, is held by his mother in a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in the town of Dadaab, Kenya, Tuesday, July 26, 2011. (AP)

Somalia is now a land of famine after the worst drought in six decades. Twenty years of civil war between Islamic insurgents and weak governments have turned southern Somalia into a sphere of horror and death.

The United Nations made the famine official last week. Tens of thousands are already believed dead and the U.N. Secretary General says hundreds of millions of dollars need to be found immediately.

This has all left the aid workers who predicted it furious.

This hour On Point: Somalia: what happens when the world turns away from disaster.

-Jacki Lyden


Jeffrey Gettleman, East Africa Bureau Chief for the New York Times. He wrote in 2009 about what it is like to report from Somalia, an article you can find here.

Sinead Murray, aid worker with the International Rescue Committee

E.J. Hogendoorn, Horn of Africa Project Director for the International Crisis Group .

Semhar Araia, Horn of Africa Regional Policy Advisor for Oxfam .


For more of the striking images of Mihag Gedi Farah, the “frail face of famine,” please click here.

Here’s an album of Oxfam photos from the crisis in Somalia.

Dadaab UN refugee camp
View Dadaab UN refugee camp in a larger map

Here is some video of the crisis in Somalia.


From The Reading List:

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  • Michael

    Very sad,

    I read some troubling and deeply moving stories from the bbc and others world news about what’s going on there.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Tragic that the country was ravaged for resources, by Western Corporations, stuck with rampaging warlords, and now famine.  Neither the corporations that profited, nor the warlords that profited, will do the honorable thing for these poor people!
         Really makes you believe in most of the religions, doesn’t it?  See how these people are ‘rewarded’ for trying to live, and make a living?  They’re certainly not white enough for the Christian God to help, according to a lot of pale ‘Christians’, that I have met most of my life.

    • YourEmail

      As long as I can remember this has been the case somewhere in Africa for one reason or another.  Colonialism sucked big time for them, but self-rule was no better, and sometimes worse. Like the man said, “Climates change, people die.”

  • Dee

    This is the human crisis the obstructionist Republicans should have
    been focused instead of playing games with American lives and the
    economy today….(They are like the neglectful leaders in Somalia
    and beyond who neither see or care about the suffering of those under their care today. Good Riddance in 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dee

    Good riddance in 2012….

    • RogerWillandCo

      We need to take care of our own problems instead of fighting a loosing battle in a loosing cause. But I agree with getting rid of the Republicans, and the Democrats too.

      • tunnelman

        We can take care of both. All the resources we’re using to fight two wars we could use to intervene in Somalia and save lives.

  • Cory

    A solution is coming for Africa.  When Chinese and Indian laborers begin to expect higher pay and living standards from their employers, their jobs will be moved to Africa.  It is he next frontier in globalized cheap labor.

    For now, there is no solution.  It would be different if they were sitting on huge oil reserves or were strategically located near one of our competitors.  We don’t typically respond well to tragedies that don’t suit our self interests.

    Best hope for now is a charity concert from an aging rock star or half assed aid from a charitable organization with high administrative costs.  I’m sure conservative Americans will offer some sort of advice about bootstraps…

    • EPluribus

      China is already exploiting African labor at an intense rate, but only were there is money to be made.  When climate changes, people die.  My suggestion is birth control.

      • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston FilipinoBoston

        China has 2 billion people and India a billion but they are not dying of hunger.

        • Anonymous

          China and especially India still have poverty.

        • Glad2Help

          India and parts of China benefit from the monsoons. If there were no Himalayas there would be both no monsoons and no desertification of much of Africa. The rain that should fall on Africa falls instead on the southeast asia. So maybe China and India should feed Somalia because they get their rain.

        • JimminyC

          Within my lifetime the Chinese were starved to the point that roadkill was a banquet. They ate the bark off of trees and in many cases each other. How soon they forget.

  • GeorgeTheLame

    Send George Bush in, I hear he is working tirelessly for the poor and downtrodden of the earth. Plus, he like to “fix” countries.

  • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston FilipinoBoston

    I was only 7 years old when I first saw a picture of a skeletal child in Africa. I look at my window and saw poor kids playing in the streets of Manila. I compared the picture with those kids outside my house.

    I was confused because my neighbors barely eats 3 meals a day but they are happy, dirty and malnourish. I stared at the picture and saw sad,malnourish and grief. I don’t understand and I cried until to this day.

    • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston FilipinoBoston

      I cried because even though I don’t have a wonderful life I’m still fortunate to have a good life. The children of Africa don’t deserve to be covered with flies but confused why other poor people are happier than other poors.

      • Educate4peace

        FilipinoBoston, I understand your feelings of pain and empathy for the poorest of the poor. You are right, the children of Africa, nor any child, do not deserve to suffer this way.
        You might consider reading The End of Poverty (http://www.amazon.com/End-Poverty-Economic-Possibilities-Time/dp/1594200459). It is informative, insightful, and even uplifting in the sense of empowerment it provides.

  • Markus

    Ok, so people take this tragedy as an opportunity to criticize Bush, western corporations, republicans, and white Christians. Shouldn’t Fox news be identified as part of this too? Is there any issue that doesn’t result in a cheap shot at these groups?
    However, to try to stay with today’s topic, given population increases, the corruption of their own governments and a harsh climate, hard to see anything that would do more than help sustain these people until the next disaster a year or two from now. Is it the way these things are covered, or is it really that the problems of today are so much more impossible to solve than they were 20 years ago? And at what point does compassion exhaustion set in so that those who might help, give up. 

    • tunnelman

      There is no such thing as “compassion exhaustion” for some people.

  • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston FilipinoBoston

    As I write this comment. A child in Africa is starving to death or dying of hunger. While I see Americans kids getting fatter everyday, While I see hundreds of leftovers are thrown away from McDonald’s but the world seem to have no remorse about Africa.
    Instead writing something to solve the hunger we blame other people, we continue with our lives, We binge for food and lay on our couches to watch television of hungry Somalians on prime time news.
    I don’t know what is going on with our world but I Blame my self for being part of it.

    • Peter (Boston area)

      As anyone trying to predict the weeks’ weather will tell you, the world is pretty much chaotic on a near-term basis, and whether it’s a famine, tsunami, earthquake, epidemic, or human outburst of xenophobic genocide, the blame does not rest on you.  I hate suffering as much as anyone, and can think of many ways the US and the world could be better organized to render aid.  It takes political will as well as individual sacrifice. 

    • tunnelman

      I absolutely agree with you FilipinoBoston. We have devised a system that could feed the world many times over, yet we aren’t willing to use that system to actually feed people. There’s nothing wrong with looking at our country and ourselves through a critical lens.

  • SteveV

    My wife and I have stopped making contributions to causes outside our community/state. We have done so in the past; however, within weeks we are receiving requests for more money in the form of letters and, worst of all, telephone calls during dinner time. It appears we can never contribute enough to make them stop calling. I do have a suggestion. We will make an annual contribution to these organizations if they promise not to contact us more than once each year and not share our information with anyone else. We do contribute to several (local and statewide) charities who honor this agreement and it’s worked well for decades.

  • Elizabeth B.

    Money does not solve the starvation problem anywhere in the world.  We can only solve this problem but applying human goodwill and decent relationships among countries.
    In reality, the “western world” does not want to solve this gigantic problem, the financiers and big corporations profit from all kinds of human suffering.  It’s all about profiteering…  And poverty duplicates itself like a virus and people contribute to it heavily…
    The news images make us feel depressed and outraged but those feelings will not solve any starvation problem.
    Additionally, our benevolantly sent dollars do not help becasue they do not reach these starving people.

    • http://twitter.com/domnogin domnogin

      $20B could eliminate global poverty.  Unfortunately, a lot of it gets diverted by despots as the Iraq food-for-oil plan tried to avoid.  Globalism is a problem in poor countries as subsidies food from rich countries puts local farmers out of work as described in the TV show THE PHILANTHROPIST “Haiti.” http://domnogin.blogspot.com

  • Dmariano37

    We can’t discuss “solutions” to this or any other problem in the context of our current  American system.  It doesn’t function to help people; it’s only goal is to generate profit, and for somebody to gain someone else has to lose.  We shouldn’t fall into their games and distractions by fighting rep. and dem. positions.  Humans have been starving, suffering, and dying under both parties power.  I agree with Roger; send all the greedy pigs packing

  • Sam

    All I hear is a lot of talking and no solutions, no actions.

    What can we do to help?

    Are you bringing this program to us just to inform us? To shed light to this issue? An issue that nothing can be done about?

    This just leaves me feeling sad, angry and powerless.

  • Dan

    isn’t is ‘ah’ not ‘eh’…?

  • http://twitter.com/FilipinoBoston FilipinoBoston

    Melinda Gates has been helping the poor people of India for quite sometime now. I saw her on tv recently without make up, without expensive clothes just a shirt and a khaki. She seems look depress talking about the poor. She said she will do everything to help the poor but she cannot guarentee that she will be able to help them all. On the other side of the Globe President Aquino has been helping the poor people of Palawan. handing out free money to families to put their children to schools but they have to keep going to school in order to receive monetary assistance from the Aquino administration. And in America President Clinton has been so active in helping the people of Haiti since the earthquake. A lot people are out there are helping the Poor people but some of them we don’t even know nor never heard of them.

    You must be one of them.

  • Lchammond

    While your programme is excellent, and choice of guests inspired, the photograph on your website panders to the worst disaster pornography. Please remove it. 

    • Sofia

      No, please keep it. It is terribly disturbing, but that child is real, and we need to see it and look at it with compassion. And multiply that picture by a couple of million, because that is the reality. When we turn away, it’s easy to slip back into our complacency and feelings of helplessness. We need to acknowledge that we know how to solve these problems, and we know that the rich countries of the world could unite to ease food and water shortages for millions of people, but we choose not to. How rich we are that we have clean water and enough food on our plates for a meal, or else food pantries, food stamps, and other ways that we don’t see such starvation here. There is enough for all, if we share our resources better. This is the story of the loaves and fishes, feeding the multitudes out of our not-so-hidden abundance. Now, wouldn’t that be a miracle. It could be done. It may take a long time, but it can happen, but not if we keep turning away from the problem and the real children who are dying.

      • Fredlinskip

              Much easier to fund wars though, than compassionate alternatives.      Also much easier to ignore effects of climate change when it doesn’t effect our own country as severely.

    • tunnelman

      I think the reason for your extreme reaction is the pain the picture causes. It’s Reality.

  • Astier Almedom

    Thank you, Semhar for pointing out that the affected communities in Somalia and the Horn of Africa region are RESILIENT. The question is how and why do humanitarian aid and foreign policy (jointly or independently) continue to erode that resilience? Jeffrey, Sinead, and everyone else involved should start from the foundations of their own institutions. It is now too late for many of those affected, but I have high hopes in what you are saying and doing, Semhar.

  • mcs

    Just turned me off, the way the speaker neatly avoided the issue of corruption, and Jackie did not call her out. Sorry, not acceptable, folks.

    Why would I support this cause when there is clearly no assurance that the monies are properly channeled?

  • Pingback: Local Somali Leaders Ask Public To Aid Famine Victims | WBUR

  • Ellen Dibble

    Interesting to hear this show right when a debt reduction is said to be on the table that eliminates the charitable deduction.  I live in a city with a college whose endowment represents lots of charitable deductions, as I understand it, a college that might not be flourishing without that nonprofit status.  There is a movement locally to require it to be a tax-paying institution, to help out the city more than it does on a voluntary basis.  And I have wondered whether the donors would be equally generous if they were not basically redirecting their profits from Uncle Sam to a charity/nonprofit of their  choice.  I argued that one might prefer a for-profit academy but that would be a different institution altogether.  Similar arguments come into play for all the various disasters where international funding plays a part.  Either the US Treasury produces the funding, or the IMF, or the UN, or you and I do our best and, if we qualify, we succeed in taking that money away from Uncle Sam and instead funneling it where we think it is used more efficiently.

  • Samsnead

    The two guests are terrible. One is basically holding out the tin cup for her organization which she admits does not actually work in Somalia. The gentleman is trying to blame the war on terror (which I hate) for the tragedy that is Somalia. We must confront the terrorist bandits who steal aid, resell it and leave their own people to starve if we are going to make a difference.

    WHERE can we send money that will actually help people right now? Who is the go to group? This show is making people turn away in frustration.

  • Walker

    In the Bible, to have wealth is immoral.  I personally believe that it is not, but when I see people building 10,000 sqft homes and buying their teenagers BMWs, while people starve, I see the Bible’s point.

    We all indulge at some level, but sometimes indulgence is evil.  

    • PasteB4Swine

      Somalia is an Islamic country, not too far from some of the most outlandish displays of indulgence to be found anywhere or anytime on earth — by their rich Muslim brothers who own lots of oil. Considering that it is the duty of every Muslim to defeat the nonbelievers to the point where they are destroyed outright or dominated to the point that they will pay a tax for the privilege of practicing Christianity or Judiaism (all others are just put to death) and would fulfill this duty (given the opportunity) I would say that your sympathy is misplaced.

      • Walker

         My statement is directed at anybody who indulges unreasonably, not just Christians.  And I don’t have sympathy.  I have empathy.  And I’m not going to defend Islam because I think all religions are stupid.  But there is a difference between Islam and puritanical Islam, just like there is a difference between Christianity and puritanical Christianity. 

        Charity is an aspect of religion that I like.  

        • JJimminyC

          So the Islamic apologists would like us to think.  However having studied the Koran and associated texts I can assure you that there is no difference between Islam and puritanical Islam. It’s just that some of them have the patients to wait until it is too late for the west to respond before revealing their real mode of operation. You make take the oppression of Christian and all non Muslim religions in the all Islamic “republics” as a hint. I agree all religions are idiotic once they are one generation away from their source, but Islam is not a live and let live kind of meme.

          • Walker

             Jimmy, I can say the same thing for the Christianity.  The structures of both religions are sexist and terrorist-ic.  Both religions threaten people with the violence of Hell in order that they follow Jesus or Mohammad.  That is a terroristic structure.  Jesus said, “Think not that I come to send peace; I come not send peace but a sword.”  And the God of the Old Testament is a genocidal maniac.

            Christianity has a long history of violence and terrorism, but it has evolved, even though the terrorism creeps up every now and then.  I grew up around Muslims and they are not the same as the puritans. 

            I’ll try not to belabor the point but in Christian terms, Episcopalians and Evangelicals are very different people within the same religion.     


          • JJImminyC

            Please, there is no comparison, just look at what is done in the name of Islam. You can personally cause a dozen deaths of random unbelievers by simply burning a Koran. These people are nutz, and not in a good way.

          • Thinknaboutit

            I wonder what would happen if I started hosting bible burning parties and advertised it on a nation wide media outlet.

            To hold up the fanatics within any group as an example of the whole is dishonest and dangerous.  You are trying to teach intolerance and hatred of people you know nothing about.

          • CAKid

             Dear Thinkaboutit, “I wonder what would happen if I started a bible burning party…”  I suggest your question has already been answered.  You might remember about a decade ago, a publicly funded art museum on the East coast featured in one of their exhibits a jar of urine with a cross in it.   It received widespread attention.  It was featured in all the news magazines and on all the nightly news programs.  Many people thought the whole exercise was repugnant, and doubly so because it was funded by tax dollars, but there was no violence.   Then we can think back to Martin Scorcesse’s movie “the temptation of Christ”.   Again, lots of upset people, but no violence.    There are many examples in our recent history of art that is offensive to Christians, but none of have provoked violence.  So your thought experiment has already been performed.  As we say in physics. QED

          • Walker

            You do realize that John Lennon sang ‘Imagine’ and so a crazy Christian came along and shot him.

          • THinknaboutit

            Can you please point me to the story about Muslims getting violent over the desecration of the crescent, a cross in a jar is not a bible burned. if you truly feel it is such a safe practice I invite you to host the bible burning party, I’ll pay for the advertising but you are gonna have to cover security yourself.

          • Walker

            If you took the breadth of history of both religions, there is more genocide, more slavery, more public burnings done in the name of Jesus. 

            As I know of, there have been three instances of Christian terrorism in that last 5 years: the murder of George Tiller, an attempted bombing at a Jacksonville, FL Islamic Mosque, and the recent Norway incident.  All were done in the name of Jesus.

            Archie Bunker once told Lionel Jefferson to not condemn a whole group for the actions of a few.  Lionel repeated what Archie said over and over, so maybe it would click in Archie’s head.  It does not click.

            I can easily point at Christian inequity all night.  I can point at Muslim inequity all night.  But I don’t judge a large group of people for the actions of a few.  Most Muslims live in Indonesia, and (I don’t know if something has happened over there but) you don’t hear too much out of them.

            Islam teaches that to save a human life is to save all of humanity.  Christianity has some acute morality, but other times it says to kill your children if they don’t respect you. 

            There is easily a comparison; they are pretty similar religions.  Next time you open the Bible, read Joshua and then google Manifest Destiny. There are quite a few Manifest Destinies in Euro-American Christian history.  And the literature and actions from the various time periods when different Manifest Destinies went on resembles the Book of Joshua.

        • Fredlinskip

          There are some faiths I suppose that believe that it could have been just as easily any one of us staring out from those eyes in the picture above.

    • Anonymous

      The worst indulgence is the Dad the buys everything, including a BMW, but gets away with not paying his child support. There are MANY of them, trust that.

      • Walker

        You got that right!

  • Bill

    It’s another issue mainstream media is burying – I’m sure a year or two from now there will be a lot of in depth stories of the “hidden famine”, but right now (other than NPR), it’s not being reported. I expect subjects this painful hurt ratings.

    • Kurt

      NBC has been running stories about it all week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Glenn-Poston/1824259772 Glenn Poston

    When asked about the corruption in Kenya, the question was bypassed, with gibberish! Then the end of the story. So stop the donation of money, and donate your time! 

  • Slipstream

    I was going to listen to this program – I even got past the horrifying picture – but once I heard Jacki Lydon was the host, I had to shut it off.  Why can’t you use Jane Clayson more instead?

  • Lillypad10

    this is very sad and someone NEEDS to make a change

  • Nyahodomgotthatswagg

    that is sad that a baby has to starve because the mommy and daddy do want to cook that is just wrong    

                                           nyah lanae odom 10

  • Breauna echelle 11

    i knw thts ritee nyah gurl

  • Bregotthatswagg


  • Nyahodomgotthatswagg

    that is so sad that there parents wont get up and cook lazy

       nyah lanae odom   

    • Bregotthatswagg

      ritee gurl

  • Kkkkkl

    hey gurl

  • Nyahodomgotthatswagg

    that is wrong

  • BRE

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    • Nyahodomgotgotthatswagg

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  • BRE


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      i know do u like to poop i mean dang

  • BRE


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    • Nyahodom

      hunter can i get a pice

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    hi wat is up

  • Nyahodomgotthatswagg

    come on lets poop

  • KAY


  • Abderrahman tounsi

    Shame on you Muslims! Your brothers are suffering and every day, children die… Meanwhile, wealthy Muslims spend lots and lots of money on tourism and travelling all over the world as if they those people who die daily are not their brothers…
    by: abderrahmantounsi@gmail.com

  • Akhil Sreedas

    Is there any way to give them donation ?

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