Ground Your Warplanes, Save the Horn of Africa

“When you are hungry, cold is a killer, and the people here are starving and helpless.” Not many of us can relate to such a statement, but millions of ‘starving and helpless’ people throughout the Horn of Africa know fully the pain of elderly Somali mother, Batula Moalim.

Moalim, quoted by the British Telegraph, was not posing as spokesperson to the estimated 11 million people (per United Nations figures) who are currently in dire need of food. About 440,000 of those affected by the world’s “worst humanitarian disaster” dwell in a state of complete despair in Dadaab, a complex of three camps in Kenya. Imagine the fate of those not lucky enough to reach these camps, people who remain chronically lacking in resources, and, in the case of Somalia, trapped in a civil war.

All that Batula Moalim was pleading for was “plastic sheeting for shelter, as well as for food and medicine.”

It is disheartening, to say the least, when such disasters don’t represent an opportunity for political, military or other strategic gains, subsequently, enthusiasm to ‘intervene’ peters out so quickly.

UN officials from the World Food Programme (WFP) are not asking for much: $500 million to stave off the effects of what is believed to be the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years. This is not an impossible feat, especially when one considers the geographic extent of the drought and creeping famine. Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya are all affected, and terribly so. Sudan and Eretria are also not far from the center of this encroaching disaster.

60 percent of the amount requested by WFP has already been raised. More is needed, however, especially as the reverberation of the drought is already surpassing the immediate need for food and shelter. Five million are already at risk of cholera in Ethiopia alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Hundreds have reportedly died, and many more are likely to follow.

Cholera requires an immediate remedy as the intestinal infection leads to sever diarrhea, dehydration and death. Other figures are equally grim. 8.8 million people, also in Ethiopia, are at risk of contracting malaria, according to Tarik Jasarevic, WHO spokesman. Jasarevic has also told journalists that these ailments have already been reported in Somalia, and other Ethiopian regions. This means the disaster is not confined to refugee camps and is thus much harder to control.

For refugees, there is nothing worse than having no safe haven in sight. Still, they must escape when death becomes the only alternative to aimless journeys. While hundreds of thousands are gathering in Kenya’s camps, an average of 1,700 Somali refugees venture to Ethiopia each day. The latter, a country with a population of about 85 million, is fully embroiled in the crisis. 4.5 million Ethiopians need assistance, a rise of over 50 percent in less than three months, according to WHO. One can only try to envisage the speed at which this disaster is unraveling.

International organizations, including WFP, WHO and UNICEF have made numerous appeals. Some major media outlets responded by giving the humanitarian crisis a degree of coverage. While donations have bashfully trickled in, the goals are yet to be reached. According to a report by the Telegraph, “no African country has offered a donation to help drought victims in the Horn of Africa outside of those affected.”

The report, published July 15, quoted Michael O’Brien-Onyeka, Oxfam’s Regional Campaigns Policy Manager for East and Central Africa, who said it was “disappointing” that “African states insist on ‘African solutions for African problems’ with regard to Libya but fail to respond to droughts and famines.”

On the subject of Libya, it may be helpful to consider some financial figures.

“The British Government has pledged ?38 million in food aid to Ethiopia,” reported the Telegraph. The following day, British Daily Mirror reported on the seemingly different subject of Libya. Four more British jets were recently deployed to the war zone near Libya, raising the total to 22 RAF jets, according to James Lyons in the Mirror (July 16). The cost thus far is ?260 million, only ?40 million short of the total amount needed by the WFP to feed 11 million starving people.

Here is another example of the dubious nature of British involvement in the war on Libya (falsely slated as a war to prevent imminent massacres of civilians): “Tornado GR4s cost around ?35,000 for every hour they are in the air and are having to fly long distances from their base in Gioia del Colle, southern Italy, to Libya,” according to the Mirror.

Major African countries and Britain are not the only parties involved in acts of duplicity. The US military adventurism in the Horn of African, especially Somalia, and its renewed use of costly unmanned drones can feed, cloth, shelter and treat countless refugees. More, Arab and Muslim countries tend to be the least responsive parties in such situations. While it is true that the chief of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu made several appeals for help, such singular calls generate feel-good moments but no major mobilization for action.

The disaster in the Horn of Africa is partly man-made. Countries with ‘failed states’ status (in other words, victims of outside interventions) cannot possibly fend off crises of this magnitude. For the last 20 years, Somalia has had no central government controlling the country’s territories. Outside intervention has made it impossible for any party to unite the disjointed country. What is a Somali refugee to do?

To help the millions disaffected by the multilayered disaster in the Horn of Africa, we need more than appeals for blankets and food stuff. We also need a degree of human decency and common sense. We need to re-channel some of the funds wasted on disastrous wars into actually saving lives. If warning parties would ground their Tornado GR4s and other warplanes for a few days, the single action alone could save the entire region.

For now, though, let us all do what we can to help the Horn of Africa survive this terrible ordeal.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His newbook is, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).


More articles by:

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Do We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring