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Other voices, Aug. 17, 2011

By The Providence Journal, R.I.

Not much, but a start

The world, locked in financial crisis, seems to have shrugged off the drought and famine gripping much of the Horn of Africa. Winter rains failed in Somalia, alerting aid agencies as early as last November that the country faced famine. Now the country is enveloped in a catastrophe as starving refugees trek for weeks toward the border with Kenya, with malnourished young children dying in droves, even though conditions there and in Ethiopia are little better.

The refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, hosts some 376,000 refugees, with 1,300 more arriving each day.

And yet, in contrast to earlier such events, there is little public outcry at what U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gueterres calls “the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.” He calls these people the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable people in the world.

Donors from developed-world governments and nongovernmental organizations have been slow to react. It’s only in recent weeks, as photos of starving children have begun appearing in news media, that major action has been taken.

It was only on July 27 that an aid flight arrived at Mogadishu, the dysfunctional country’s capital and epicenter of the famine, with food enough to reverse malnutrition in 3,500 children. Not much, but it’s a beginning.

The Providence (R.I.) Journal (Aug.10)

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