Four reasons help is slow to reach Somalia’s famine victims

As more information about East Africa’s famine reaches Western audiences, the situation looks increasingly grim – but aid doesn’t seem to be keeping pace with the publicity. What challenges do humanitarian organizations face?

1. Al Shabab

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP/File
In this Jan. 1, 2010 photo, a young boy leads the hard-line Islamist Al Shabab fighters as they conduct military exercise in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood, Somalia.

Al Shabab militants say it is better to starve than to accept aid from the West. With their threats and attacks, Al Shabab may be intentionally keeping Somalis out of reach of Western aid, or killing them for attempting to escape the famine, the Associated Press reports.

The United Nations World Food Programme says there are 2.2. million people in need of aid who are out of reach in militant-controlled southern Somalia.
Al Shabab initially said it would allow all aid groups access to the country in order to provide aid, then rescinded permission to many of the groups, including UN agencies, the Monitor reported Wednesday. To get around the restrictions, the UN has been requesting additional help from Arab leaders – Al Shabab has been more permissive to aid from Islamic countries.

Organizations also have to act cautiously to be sure that they don’t run afoul of US and British anti-terror laws, which are meant to prevent humanitarian funds from ending up in the hands of militant groups such as Al Shabab.

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