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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Somalia food aid "logistical nightmare" in a political desert

As reported here:
- Pirates, gun-toting militiamen and endless checkpoints make delivering aid in anarchic Somalia a "logistical nightmare", a U.N. official said, as insecurity hampers efforts to feed 1 million hungry people.
A severe drought has killed dozens of people and hundreds of livestock in the Horn of Africa country after seasonal rains failed for three years in a row, leading to Somalia's worst harvest in a decade.
Lawlessness in the nation carved into fiefdoms run by rival warlords since 1991 is making food distribution extremely difficult, the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) says.
"You can say that this is a logistical nightmare," WFP Country Director for Somalia Zlatan Milisic told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
"We have problems on every corner -- pirate attacks, there are shootings on different convoys, there's shootings at the distributions, we get stopped at checkpoints."
The importance of logistics is almost always underrated, but in this case, the lawlessness and unchecked militias would seem to make the issue of logistics take a back seat to the political environment.

It seems to me the UN is trying to "push a string" from the wrong end. Throwing more food and aid supplies into the maw of the beast that Somalia has become, without taking action to bring even disorder out of the chaos is doomed to fail except in some weird "trickle down" theory of feeding millions by putting so much stuff out there that some of it is bound to get through to the starving masses. See my earlier post touching on this here.

As quoted there the first UN/US effort in Somalia which preceded "Blackhawk Down" was a successful application of force to feed the starving but failure ultimately came because
"...the chaotic political situation of that unhappy land bogged down U.S. and allied forces in what became, in effect, a poorly organized United Nations nation-building operation. ...its forces received increasing hostility as they became more deeply embroiled into trying to establish a stable government. The military and diplomatic effort to bring together all the clans and political entities was doomed to failure as each subelement continued to attempt to out-jockey the others for supreme power. The Somali people were the main victims of their own leaders...
The people at the World Food Program are certainly doing their best, but "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

There is a large natural element to the unfolding disaster as the drought continues, but an even larger role is played by the human element.

The UN needs to revisit Somalia. And the US needs to be there.

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