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Nobody is under any illusions as to the causes of the ongoing famine in East Africa, where over 10 million people are at risk of starvation after the worst drought in 60 years. It’s not just that the rains have failed. Rains fail in many countries, but that does not inevitably lead to famine.
Drought is the trigger. But the components that need to be in place to pull it are lack of proper infrastructure, poor governance, and frequently conflict. It is no surprise, therefore, that the famine is worst in southern Somalia, where a brutal internecine conflict has kept that place in a state of Hobbsean chaos for two decades.
Heart-rending stories are daily emerging of babies being left to die, whole villages migrating to towns in a forlorn effort to find food, and parents trying to kill themselves to escape the total loss.
Not until these failings are addressed will such catastrophes stop repeating themselves, but we must be frank. Whole libraries have been written on the problem of poor governance and failing states, and many libraries more will be written in the future. That is well and good, but it won’t help those starving to death in East Africa who need our help today.
Without doubt, the people of Somalia and the region will thank the international community for any progress it makes in helping address the root-causes that exacerbate droughts like this to such horrifying levels.
For now, though, our words matter little. The best thing we can do is to give. Urgently-needed donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee can be made here: http://www.dec.org.uk/donate_now/