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World watches as Somalia struggles against famine

world Updated: Sep 16, 2011 23:48 IST
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Is the world about to watch 750,000 Somalis starve to death? The United Nations' warnings could not be clearer. A drought-induced famine is steadily creeping across Somalia and tens of thousands of people have already died. The Islamist militant group the Shabab is blocking most aid agencies from accessing the areas it controls, and in the next few months three-quarters of a million people could run out of food, UN officials say.

Soon, the rains will start pounding down, but before any crops will grow, disease will bloom. Malaria, cholera, typhoid and measles will sweep through immune-suppressed populations, aid agencies say, killing countless malnourished people.

In a way, this is all déjà vu. In the early 1990s, Somalia was hit by famine, precipitated by drought and similarly callous thugs blocking food aid.

But in the 1990s, the world was more willing to intervene. The UN rallied behind more than 25,000 American troops, who embarked on a multibillion-dollar mission to beat back the gunmen long enough to get food to the starving people.

"There's no mood for intervention," said one US official. "People remember what happened in the 1990s. 'It doesn't work' was the conclusion."

Foreign military force, analysts say, has never succeeded in solving Somalia's problems and it is not going to solve them now. This famine is not just about the Shabab's blocking food aid.

It is about a broken state and the human wreckage it is causing.