While Americans enjoy picnics, run after ice-creams trucks and enjoy endless summer treats, millions of Somalis fall victim to fatal starvation. Our western obsessions for bikini-ready fad diets and debt-ceiling chatter restrict us from one harsh, disgusting reality: 30,000 Somali children have died in the last 90 days. Media coverage of the famine in Somalia is incredibly weak even though Northern Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years.
As if the famine itself isn’t bad enough, an Islamic insurgent group called the Shabaab are holding Somali civilians hostage in refugee camps. The group has blocked all exits leading out of the country, forcing the starving victims to rot like animals in the disease-ridden camps. The combination of an unstable Transitional Federal Government and the Shabaab’s banning of immunizations in Somalia has intensified the famine’s already gruesome destruction.
This type of natural disaster is a slow-onset emergency, meaning that it doesn’t render the same shock value that an earthquake or a tsunami does. So even though 3.2 million Somali civilians desperately need food and water, news stations are reluctant to cover this “story.” Stock market media unfortunately trumps coverage of malnourished humans who are infected with the measles and cholera. In our Western bubble, what happens to the Republicans’ trust funds is much more critical than swollen-bellied, suffering Africans.
Can’t stand it anymore? Well… it gets worse. In 2008, The U.S. State Department declared the Shabaab a terrorist group, which created some major restrictions in terms of sending aid to Somalia. The State Department defines the Shabaab as an al-Qaeda inspired group, and is fearful that any humanitarian aid will fall in the wrong hands. Sadly, politics play a fundamental role even in distressing situations like this one. These U.S. restrictions make it nearly impossible for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide aid to a deteriorating population.
Just last week, Obama expressed sympathy for the Somalis and agreed to ease the aid restrictions on Somalia. But simply “easing” restrictions and tweaking foreign policy will not save lives immediately. The damage has been done; U.S. funding to Somalia’s World Food Program dropped from $500 million to $13 since 2008. Because the U.S. has the most powerful humanitarian aid response in the world, this lack of funding and relief to Somalia has severely escalated the crisis.
Most news stations won’t sacrifice their ratings in order to inform people about the African famine. The right-winged, corporate-owned media in America will not stimulate a relief movement for Somalia because 24/7 coverage of an economic downturn means good ratings, and more followers. And even the Haiti celebrities have disappeared. “Greed and Power” rule headlines because that’s just how America works…
It’s estimated that $300 million is needed within the next 3 months in order to sustain life in Somalia. So what can we do, besides blame the money-hungry Right? The Oxfam America website is accepting donations, as well as UNICEF. Send videos, emails, texts, phone calls, and even letters to local and national news stations to force news coverage of the famine and spark global attention. Call on billionaires to donate as much as they can, show support, and raise funds in your neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. Shock those around you by making posters with the current death rate in Somalia… even use pictures of starving children to prompt a Somalia relief movement.
Americans have learned to pity themselves as a result of the recession. Many of us fear losing our jobs and homes to a crumbling Wall Street. We complain about healthcare and argue over LGBT rights. But it’s not so easy to play the victim when 3 million human beings are literally dying for a piece of bread and a handful of water.
Edited By: Sherri Yarbrough