According to the United Nations, 29,000 children under 5 have died from starvation in Somalia within the last 90 days. Though the international body has urged more donor support and better diplomatic relations with al-Shabaab rebels if only for the sake of getting aid to the people who need it, many refugee in Somalia have not been able to get the food and nutrition they need.
The picture indeed is bleak. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Edward Carr, if things continue at the current rate, Somalia could be seeing as many as 2,500 deaths a day by the end of August.
While many including myself, often lament about the lack of international coverage in mainstream press, as the famine in the Horn of Africa worsens, the press coverage of it has as well. And the coverage has helped lead to significant policy changes. This week, the Obama administration eased its year-old aid regulations to make getting aid to Somalis in al-Shabaab controlled areas easier. But amidst numbers and pictures of starving children, many including our readers here have asked the question: what can really be done to break this narrative?
Though many policymakers disagree on several points, across the board all will say that this humanitarian crisis is more than a natural disaster. The lack of accountability from Somalia’s government, the lack of commitment from donor nations who have pledged money but never came through, the rebels who are more concerned with control than life, the aid groups that have used more of their donations to advertise the crisis than help end it. Blame could be cast around for days, but in one op-ed a new argument is arising to bring more accountability for those who have left millions helpless.
In Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny writes there should be real, tangible punishment for letting others starve. He writes:
For all its horror, starvation is also one of the simpler forms of mortality to prevent — it just takes food. Drought, poor roads, poverty — all are contributing factors to the risk of famine, but sustenance in the hands of the hungry is a pretty foolproof solution. As a result, famine deaths in the modern world are almost always the result of deliberate acts on the part of governing authorities. That is why widespread starvation is a crime against humanity and the leaders who abet it should be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Though Kenny’s idea is a novel one it is hard to imagine it would be much penalty at all. The ICC has historically been ineffective in prosecuting leaders for the most heinous of crimes. Still, the idea has some merit and is worth a discussion.
Tell us what you think Clutchettes and gents: is famine a crime? Weigh in with your thoughts here.