U.S. Participates in Emergency Meeting on Horn of Africa at UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Posted by Ertharin Cousin
July 26, 2011
Somalis Fleeing Hunger to Refugee Camps in Dadaab

Yesterday, I joined an UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called to address the critical situation in the Horn of Africa.

We now know there are more than 11.5 million people -- primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and especially Somalia -- in need of emergency assistance.

Given the rapidly evolving humanitarian emergency in the region, I was encouraged to see so many countries convene so quickly in Rome for the ministerial-level meeting. There is no time to lose -- and meetings such as these must continue to bring the world's attention to the situation in the Horn.

Here at the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, we have been working practically around the clock to support the broader U.S. and global response to the present crisis; but perhaps more importantly, we have also been working with our partners over the past months to prepare for a drought that we knew was coming. With U.S. Government support, food was pre-positioned in the area, saving over 4 million lives that otherwise would have been at risk.

At the emergency meeting at the FAO yesterday we all agreed that it is not enough to address the present crisis, as we have done in the past, but rather it is essential that we tackle the longer term needs (access to water, agricultural development) of these stricken areas at the same time as we respond to the emergency.

I left the conference convinced that there really is an emerging consensus around this sort of twin-track approach in the Horn -- that even as we respond to the emergency needs of the people on the ground, we will also address the broader developmental deficits that plague the region.

No country can solve this problem alone, of course. Along with other donors, we are working closely with UN Agencies like the FAO and Yesterday's meeting, which followed a donor's conference in London and significant planning sessions in Washington D.C., and Nairobi, is an important start. But with more than 3,000 Somali refugees entering Kenya and Ethiopia each day, it is only that -- a start.

<a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.wfp.org/" href="http://www.wfp.org/" title="WFP target=" _blank"="">How can you help with the situation in the Horn of Africa? Start here.

Editor's Note: Ambassador Cousin will be traveling to Kenya in two weeks to review U.S.-supported relief operations along the border with Somalia.



July 27, 2011

W.W. writes:

Agriculture : In Europe it has Officially started a pig protest against Stock Market made by farmers who are struggling to survive.

They declared its all corrupted and their work and profit its all stolen from the corrupted society and not governamental banks.

For this reason it is scary to see african nation pushed to invest in agriculture pretty much because there is a strong concern that there is a plan to involve em into the corrupted stock market society

Ousman T.
United States
July 27, 2011

Ousman T. in the U.S.A. writes:

Let the riches nations stand up now to help the people of Somalia before is too late. Famine natural disaster.

New Mexico, USA
August 2, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Ertharin Cousin,

Going back in the archives of Dipnote, this question has been left unanswered since 2007, maybe now would be a good time to, given the massive overcrouding at existing refugee camps in Kenya and other places.



"http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/entries/en_route_darfur/""I've got a question I've been wondering about ever since I gave a fellow from the World Bank a lift in my cab years ago.

Good hour's drive to the Airport, and we got to talking about the then current Ethiopian famine, and I asked him why it was that these folks couldn't get what they needed to sustain themselves. "Let's bomb them with food" is as I recall my response to his answer that access was the biggest problem.

He thought that a fine idea indeed, were it not sovereign airspace.

In short, over a long conversation I got a free lesson in how the global community is often rendered impotent by the weight of its own mechanics of beaurocracy.

With that in mind,

What would be more efficient, moving the aid and establishing security where the endangered are, or moving the endangered to aid and security?

We have many a mothballed military base in the US, the international community can provide the airlift. Americans have built cities from scratch in the past and can do so again if need be. We are a nation of nation builders on many levels. We'd simply be honoring the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

If the land itself cannot sustain a population, that population would I believe under the basic concept of the global community's "responsibility to protect", be afforded special status in regard to all nation's immigration laws.

I would further suggest as global warming may create these conditions on a greater scale, that the question I pose to you above may be the defining one in terms of a practical solution."


Given that al shebab is preventing starving people from exiting their areas of control in Somalia to find aid, there exists a compelling need to "protect populations" on more than a humanitarian aid level. Lives are litterally being held hostage by terrorists and the international; community must act as one, with one purpose to eradicate that threat to populations in harm's way.

That will require more than than the current military resources being put to work dealing with al-shebab at present on a scale that looks a lot like a total military occupation for a number of years till a viable political, economic and agricultural infrastructure can be reestablished for a sustanable envioronment for populations to live in.

Providing aid in areas controlled by al-shebab by compromising or negotiating with terrorists will only serve to strengthen them as they feed themselves off US taxpayers while the aid is siphoned off, never getting to the intended recipients.

Better to go in with overwhelming force and feed those without a weapon in their hands, and disarming those that do by a number of methods;

a) turning in their weapons for food and water

b) turning in their weapons to survive period...as anyone holding a weapon becomes a legitimate target. ROE is offensive, not defensive in nature....clear, hold, and build.

Anything short of this I think will doom a lot of folks to die needlessly.

So, what exactly is my government prepared to do to get the international community to "up their game" and do what's needed here?

( posted Sat Oct 20, 2007 )

"NATO perhaps could provide, but herin lies a chance for China and Russia to work alongside NATO, the US and the UN as a social experiment to see for ourselves if we can work together as a family of nations to save a nation from total ruin, and from those who've layed it to waste."

As you can see Ertharin, I've been pushing for international cooperation on humanitarian intervention for a long time prior to this administration's efforts, and while good progress has been made, folks gennerally arn't sold on the idea yet.

We have an opportunity to wage peace together, and build the trust among nations.

While there is risk involved, a combined effort would minimize that I think in practical ways.

You can't do it without boots on the ground that's for sure, but there's a lot of idle militaries and there's no excuse not to supply them if everyone who signed on to the convention to protect populations sees fit to use their national capacities to provide them for that purpose.

It's pretty self evident that a Marshall Plan for the horn of Africa is needed, might as well start with Somalia, folks might even end the scourge of piracy that is costing the international community bookoo bucks to combat.

This will take more than governmental efforts or those of NGO's, as government are going to have to call upon their own people to open their doors, hearts, and minds to provide sanctuary.

Best Regards,



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