International community can no longer turn a blind eye toward plight in Africa

By Sarah Fischer

Imagine you live in a tent with your entire family — 12 or more of you, huddled into one hut made of curved tree branches covered with empty canvas bags with “U.S. AID” printed in big, red block letters. It’s been two years since it rained, two years since the last good crop. You’ve walked for days, weeks, months even, trying desperately to find food, water, safety — and not all of you made it. Your son died on the road. You left him where he fell, not because you wanted to but because you had no strength to bury him.

You don’t even have the strength to swat the flies away from your face, even as they take the moisture from the cracks of your lips, moisture you frantically need.

Somalia is suffering from its worst drought in 60 years. Sadly, the accompanying famine has been seen before, 20 years ago in the same region.

The United Nations and other relief agencies are having trouble getting the necessary aid to Somalia and its refugees in other nations nearby because of a terrorist group called al-Shabab that controls a large portion of the area. Because Somalia is a nation that has been without a central organized government for years, various groups claim ownership — an ownership that is not legitimate and is characterized with violence and fear.

In 1992, a similar famine struck the eastern edge of Africa, and Somalis were forced to leave their homes to find aid. During that time, the United States sent in aid using our military as a vehicle, assuring that the aid found the right people.

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    Which brings me here: Look at the pictures that come out of Somalia and Kenya. Look at the pictures of the nearly 30,000 children who have died because of malnutrition. Look at the arms of infants, barely centimeters around. Look at the 400,000 refugees in Kenya, packed into a camp that is suited for no more than 90,000.

    What did you have for lunch today? Did you complain because it was a few dollars more than you wanted to spend? Because you weren’t sure the calorie count would keep you on track for the week?

    I’m getting scared for the world. When did our priorities shift so dramatically?

    Now, I’m not suggesting that I alone can save Somalia, or that the United States increasing their aid would magically solve all its problems. Somalia has fundamental problems that plague its core, and it has to work itself out. I’m not advocating for “Team America: World Police” to come in and fix everything (our “world police force” is a bit strapped as it is, with three wars), but I am advocating for compassion from the international community.

    The United States has active military involvement in many countries around the world, in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and others, yet we can’t find the troops to distribute aid. Now true, we learned a lesson in 1992 — al-Shabab forced the help of the international community away from those who needed it most. We went in unaware of the true dangers in Somalia, but came away enlightened. So let’s use that knowledge. We gained it at a price — don’t let it be in vain. We are much better prepared to get aid where it needs to go, much better at working with UNICEF and others on ground relief organizations to keep everyone safe.

    Which raises this question, at least for me: Why aren’t we doing that?

    There’s a great and terrible quote from the film “Sahara” that I will never forget: “It’s Africa. Nobody cares about Africa.” And as much as I hope it’s not true, in my heart of hearts, I know the reason we’re not in Somalia and Kenya. Why we’re not giving everything we can.

    Doesn’t that bother you?

    It bothers me.

    _Sarah is a junior in LAS._