14 Reasons NOT to donate to Somalia
Under a heartbreaking photograph of Adam, a five-year-old Somali boy who is clearly starving, Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad recently listed 14 reasons for not giving money to help the Horn of Africa – and one good reason for giving. It went on to tell its readers: “The decision is yours”.
The article received widespread condemnation on Twitter, which in turn provoked the newspaper’s editor, who used Twitter to complain about the ‘stupidity’ of many of the Twitter comments, as “obviously” the final paragraph (the one positive reason) was the crucial one.
It seems, rather than stupidity on the part of its readers, the newspaper should blame itself. What undoubtedly was intended as a contribution to debate ended up being an example of how media headlines are often stronger than the articles themselves. Something a newspaper editor should know…
The 14 negative points deal with issues like political strife and problems with distribution. The one reason to give is the simple fact that “hundreds of people are dying every day in Somalia. And without sufficient aid that number will rise quickly.”
Here are the reasons given why people should NOT donate:
- The hunger in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda is not the result of a natural disaster, but is man-made: the result of failing government policies.
- Insufficient rains and failed harvest are part and parcel of farmers and nomads in the Horn of Africa. Countries in the region have invested too little in agricultural development to build up sufficient reserves. They prioritised defence spending over rural development.
- Food aid covers up the real causes of hunger, such as poverty, over population, badly functioning markets and disastrous agricultural policies. It lets governments off the hook.
- Food aid strengthens and legitimises failing regimes.
- Ethiopia has sold or leased hundreds of millions of acres of fertile agricultural land to foreign investors.
- Famines are preventable, says Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winning economist. And they don’t occur in functioning democracies.
- Food scarcity in Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan are partly caused by conflict. Somalia has been a ghost state for over 20 years. South Sudan has just got independence after half a century of civil war. Ethiopia has been fighting rebels for some 30 years.
- Food aid fuels and sustains conflicts, and is used as a weapon by warring factions, says Alex de Waal in Famine Crimes.
- Governments, UN and aid agencies have not acted soon enough. The Famine Early Warning System set up after the Ethiopian famine of 1984/85 had issued predictions of a bad harvest last year already.
- Food aid fuels corruption. The WFP has been paying bribes to Somali warlords for years, and so do other aid agencies. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia reported widespread fraud in food aid to that country.
- Two years ago, Human Rights Watch’s ‘From Horror To Hopelessness’ report criticised the UNHCR’s treatment in Daadab of Somali refugees. The camp, designed for 90,000 people is now home to 400,000 people.
- In the Horn of Africa, famine will be permanent and unavoidable as long as food production lags behind population growth. The region’s population will grow in the 2006-2015 period by 40%, to some 224 million.
- Food aid is addictive.
- Famine in the Horn of Africa threatens some 12 million people: peanuts compared to the 913 million people that are going hungry world wide, out of sight of news cameras. Add to that the 2 million people that are undernourished through a lack of vitamins and minerals. Worldwide, 28,000 people die each day of hunger. Emergencies such as those in Africa get the media attention, but only account for 8% of the global hunger problem.
And the reason for giving?
The article finishes by stating:
1. In Somalia, hundreds of people die each day. Without sufficient assistance, that number is set to increase rapidly. Tens of thousands of children will be stunted in their physical and intellectual growth by the lack of sufficient and nutritious food. They will carry the legacy of this famine for ever. They cannot do anything about the many valid reasons for not donating.