Moral Low Ground


‘The Moral High Ground’: U.S. Eases Aid Restrictions on Somalia as Millions Face Starvation

The United States is easing restrictions on providing aid to Somalia as millions of people in that war-torn country face starvation in what is being called the worst drought to strike the Horn of Africa in 60 years.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Obama administration is stepping up efforts to deliver desperately needed food to famine-ravaged Somalis. Part of the administration’s plan involves easing restrictions on humanitarian aid groups so that they don’t risk incurring penalties for unwittingly aiding al-Qaeda- allied Islamic militants who control large areas of southern Somalia.

Under current U.S. law, anyone who provides aid to Shahab, an Islamic militant group that controls much of the south, may be prosecuted. Shahab is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. That designation has made many aid groups wary of bringing aid to southern Somalia.

Shahab is also in the business of “taxing” organizations delivering aid to Somalia. The group is believed to make between $70- $100 million annually by doing so. U.S. officials acknowledge that the Obama administration’s move to ease aid restrictions will likely benefit Shahab, but as one anonymous official told the Los Angeles Times, “we have decided it’s worth some risk of diversion… The human need is compelling.”

The United Nations estimates that Somalia will need $300 million worth of food, medicine and other supplies in order to adequately deal with the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed not only that country but much of the Horn of Africa. According to the United Nations,  12.4 million people are in need of aid in the drought-ravaged countries of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The United States will give $459 million in aid to nations in the Horn of Africa for fiscal year 2011.

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