THE best way to address the humanitarian crises in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Somalia would be a political solution to the fighting in both lands. That would allow desperately needed aid to flow in and desperate people to stop their exodus.
But the outlook for successful negotiations is dim. In Bosnia, particularly, the gulf between the sides is widening with each day's new atrocities. Meanwhile, a much greater effort must be made to relieve the suffering of millions of civilians trapped, starved, or displaced by combat.
In Somalia, food sits on docks while people perish for lack of nourishment. The warring sides in the capital, Mogadishu, compete for control of relief stocks; convoys headed for camps where food is needed are subject to attack. The United Nations has only 50 cease-fire observers in Mogadishu. Plans call for a force of 500, which could guard the transport of food, but clan leader Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid has balked at its deployment.
UN negotiators are diligently trying to break down General Aidid's resistance. Even with 500 UN security guards on hand, however, the rescue of millions of starving Somalis will have only begun. The country needs to be inundated with relief supplies to remove all incentive for fighting over scarce food and to enable the masses of people to regain strength.
The tragedy in Somalia springs from the arrogance of clan leaders, the juxtaposition of war and drought, and the slowness of international response. In Bosnia, a calculated policy of forcing out unwanted ethnic neighbors is at work. Bosnian Muslims and Croatians flowing toward Hungary, Italy, Germany, and points further afield may not be as malnourished as Somalia's refugees, but their lives too are devastated.
While Bosnian negotiators reject unpalatable alternatives at EC-sponsored talks in London - such as the forced partition of their country - conditions for civilians deteriorate. More than 2 million have fled Bosnia and other parts of old Yugoslavia. Nations in Europe and beyond must do more to share the burden of these refugees. The July 29 UN meeting in Geneva on this refugee crisis started a process of burden-sharing. Greater financial aid was pledged. The United States, in a step of symbolic importanc e, gave Bosnians within its borders "temporary protected status," which allows them to legally remain in the US.
Greatly increased relief, expanded asylum, the creation of "safe zones" within home countries - all are avenues toward helping refugees until their political leaders can be forced, one way or the other, to end vicious, inhuman policies.