A piece by Jeffrey Gettleman this week fleshes out a development that we mentioned recently: that the U.S. government has suspended delivery of at least $50 million-worth of food aid to Somalia for fear that U.S. resources were being diverted to al Shabaab, a rebel group classified as a terrorist organization.
Aid distribution in Somalia is challenging; a recent U.N. assessment deemed it “perhaps the world’s most complex operational environment.” Security concerns, especially for foreigners, force aid organizations to entrust day-to-day operations – and millions of dollars – to local contractors.
U.S. law prohibits American support for groups classified as foreign terrorist organizations, but the situation in Somalia is not so clear-cut. “[I]f you don’t give funding to Al Shabaab areas, that’s 60 percent of the people,” said the head coordinator of U.N. humanitarian operations.
But while the U.S. considers what to do, the situation is becoming dire. U.N. officials even say conditions in Somalia haven’t been so desperate since the government collapsed in 1991. Between decreased overall levels of aid this year and the U.S. government’s suspension, officials say the emergency stockpile will only last four more weeks. More than three million people are currently reliant on international aid, according to Gettleman.
News of the U.S. suspension of food aid comes amid indications that some arms and munitions – the other major U.S. contribution to the besieged east African country – are also falling into the hands of the militants. Makes me wonder when that element of U.S. policy will be rethought.
Photo: Women displaced in Somalia (AP)