Tag Archives: Somalia

Fence & Famine

Everything I did today feels like folly when I look through that fence at Bashir, a little boy on the outside looking in, waiting for famine to claim him.

Four-year-old Bashir Hassan hangs his head on his hands as he and other members of his family wait behind a fence in the hope of being allowed to board a bus that transports newly arrived refugees to a facility where they are officially registered which entitles them to receive food rations on a regular basis in Dadaab (from Al Jazeera by Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

Famine in East Africa

What are we to do in response to little Abdifatah?

Eleven-month-old Abdifatah Hassan, suffering from severe malnutrition, is cared for at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders at a camp housing Somali refugees in Dadaab, Kenya. (from the L.A. Times by Roberto Schmidt / AFP/Getty Images / July 4, 2011)

Abdifatah is a victim of the famine in the Horn of Africa. They’re calling it the worst drought in 60 years.

My wife teaches in a school full of Somali children, many of them named Abdifatah (it’s a fairly common name, like John in the U.S.). Most, if not all, of her kids have family back in Somalia.

While famine has been officially declared in parts of Somalia, the crisis extends into Ethiopia and Kenya. Much of Southern Ethiopia, where my son Milo was born, is in a state of crisis or emergency. Families are starving.

I don’t know what to do in response to all this. You can donate money to any of several organizations on the ground (Save the Children, Doctors without Borders, Oxfam, UNICEF, World Vision, etc.).

But that feels so insignificant as I turn back to my own worries, which all seem insane after looking into Abdifatah’s vacant eyes.

Commenting on Daylight Raid by U.S. Forces in Somalia

I’m not sure why but this story about a daylight helicopter raid by U.S. Special Forces in Somalia is intriguing to me. I tried twittering about it but I just couldn’t sum up my thoughts in 140 characters. I’m not sure if this kind of story is rare, but I don’t remember seeing that many stories about U.S. raids like this (though it’s entirely possible I just miss them—I almost missed this one).

I think what I find interesting is that it was so “clean,” if such a thing can be clean. They took out a major terrorist operative who was connected to the U.S. embassy bombings and an attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya. There were no civilian deaths (another article noted that they opted to send in troops instead of using cruise missiles to minimize civilian casualties), it seems like they got the right guy (not sure if they have a positive ID yet) and it was a quick in and out operation. Maybe this is how it often happens and I just haven’t seen the stories, but it seems like this is how the war on terror should go. It could have just as easily been a mess, as any combat situation can go bad (Somalia of all places has taught us that).

I guess all the military stories we hear are of being mired in Iraq (which I don’t think started with any legitimate connection to the war on terrorism) or the continued struggle in Afghanistan. There are certainly successes in those places, but they often feel overshadowed by the body counts, the civilian casualties, the two steps forward one step back “progress” of nation-building.

I’m often uneasy about war and sympathize with peace movements, but I also think that in the face of things like terrorism a nation has little choice but to fight back. How we fight back is the crucial question of course, and I guess this just strikes me as a good example.

I realize I’m completely rambling here. Sorry.

Update: Here’s a second story on the daring raid that includes a little more background and detail.