Famine in Somalia

Somalia is a region of Africa that is currently suffering from a very impactful drought. As stated in a video from this week’s materials, it is believed that 29,000 children under the age of 5 have died in only the last ninety days as a result of this drought. There are a number of factors that play a role in this health issue. I believe that the impoverished state of the area plays the biggest role. Personally, I also feel that the social status and the viewpoint that we have here of Africa plays a role in the famine as well. Our TV commercials are filled with ads trying to get donations toward helping the hungry in Africa. I feel that as a society it may be easy for us to disregard/not think about the horrible reality going on over there, as well as take for granted what we have here that they don’t. We even have sort of “jokes” such as “there are kids starving/thirsty in Africa” when we talk in terms of wasting food/water. A factor discussed in the video is that of U.S. policy. The video gives information about U.S. “pre-famine” systems in which those that were approaching could be seen and action could be taken to prevent them. Professor David Himmelgreen tells that although these systems were in effect, their lack of prevention could be attributed to politics. Politics plays a big role in the famine in Somalia. Another part of the video talked about a gunfight that broke out upon the delivery of food from the United Nations, resulting in more deaths. This is ironic and counter-active because while the purpose of the food shipment is to attempt to save lives, lives are being lost as a result. Professor Himmelgreen is an anthropologist that works for the University of South Florida. He conducts research in Africa studying the hunger health issue.

“29,000 children dead from famine in Somalia,” last modified August 6, 2011, http://www.wtsp.com/news/national/article/204731/81/29000-children-dead-from-famine-in-Somalia.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Chase Taylor says:

    This was a very interesting post and educational about the lack of American recognition of the Somali hunger problem taking place. I also think it was interesting how important Anthropology is in respect to the politics of Somalia. If the cultural and political factors surrounding the famine origins were better understood by even further research perhaps a major avenue of the famine could be resolved. I think it interesting how you connected American culture to the culture of the Somali people using examples from the video. I agree I think our social status puts us in a position of removal and discomfort. As far as the jokes are considered I like to consider that from a psychological stand-point, I believe it was Freud who theorized that we use humor as a way to rationalize things that bother us. When we are considering the African issue from an North American perspective and culture (which is one of excess) perhaps we do anything we can to deal with it, from sending foreign aid to joking about those less fortunate than us. I think anthropology could continue to be applied to the link between our two cultures and also how other countries in Africa feel towards Somalia. It’s interesting to consider the fact that while some countries on that convenient are in rough shape like Somalia many aren’t. It would be fascinating to compare and contrast the contributing factors to impoverishment.

  2. Breanna Block says:

    Great post Joseph, I found much of what you said to be very true. You used the theory that Americans are not recognizing this famine in Somalia like they should be due to politics. The methods you use to support it, are that we are desensitized to many of Africa’s huge issues, such as poverty and starvation. You say this this is part of the reason we have not done more to help out. You also mention that some of the acts to help, such as the delivery of food have caused even more deaths. You say that this does not help the matter, because that only encourages us to stay out of it. In a sense I think Americans are “numb”to a lot of the immense tragedy occurring there because they hear about the poor conditions Africans experience all of the time. In a sad way, I think that we do not see the famine going on there as being all that much different from the day to day problems Africans struggle to overcome (starvation, malnutrition, poverty etc.). I think anthropologists were right to right to blame politics on the lack of attention given to this problem in Somalia. Simply spreading word about it does not work as effectively when you are talking to a desensitized audience, however many people are political, and will listen if you talk about the things our government has done to “ignore” the situation. Besides gaining awareness, I think anthropologist have done work to get these people the food and water that they so desperately need.

  3. Moe Aqel says:

    Hey Joseph, this is a very interesting post to talk about in regards of the situation that is going on overseas in Somalia. Personally I have a very high interest in this topic because I am originally from Grand Rapids and there are lots of Somalians that go to the same Mosque I go to and lots in our community. What I see here is crazy, people come from there and forget sometimes what is going on back home. What you mentioned in your post as far as the jokes is very true. We like to say that when talking about wasting food and other things, but the fact is that we do not feel it as much just because we do not see it first hand compared to the people back in Somalia. The methods that the anthropologists use to educate people here in the United States is more based on commercials and ads. I side with the anthropologists with the fact of blaming the political factor that is involved with the lack of attention there is to the particular problem. The way these guys have been promoting the situation and educating the people in Somalia and around the world is great, but the major thing that is holding them back from making a bigger difference and helping out the situation somewhat is by the political movement there and the rest of the world. Simply, the world is all controlled by higher up people and just get involved in what is their best interest.

  4. pucket10 says:

    Hi Joseph, I can not agree with you more that the political and cultural aspects relating to the anthropological study in Somalia has counteractive parts like you discussed. It would seem counterintuitive to not send food to a place that experiences such famine, however if more are becoming harmed from these types of actions then there must be more effective ways of implementing food delivery to these areas. Our cultural desensitizing to the actions of famine and death make many of us ignorant to the fact that there are people experiencing what we take for granted such as fresh potable water and food. I believe that with the contribution of anthropology situations like these could be mediated with more control and the social and environmental factors leading to the cause of these problems needs to be addressed first and foremost. With the knowledge of anthropology combined with our resources of technology, we can begin to implement more strategical ways of removing famine from these countries. Although it is not a quick and easy fix, as you stated there is are problems such as different policies which restrict the ability of an anthropologist, however with enough evidence of famine and hazardous environmental conditions it should be possible to work around such constraints.

  5. Ashley Hall says:

    Hey Joesph,

    I think the desensitization of our culture is a really big problem that the U.S. is currently facing. Because we live in such a fortunate country in which we take for granted so many things, it’s hard to believe that things are completely different elsewhere. A lot of what our culture has taught us, or me personally, is that if there isn’t a tangible problem I’m not responsible to fix it. Anthropologists have the fortunate ability to see through the smoke and mirrors that our society imposes, and can study what exactly makes us tick. It’s very interesting to see just how much politics influences much of what we not only do as a country, but as individuals. Placing blame on politics is very important in this issue, however, we must also take responsibility as individuals. Our government is a reflection of our society. We chose officials that may not have compassion for what happens in Somalia because they believe it is best to focus on the U.S. first. Perhaps anthropologists should also examine why our culture is so easily appeased by our elected officials, despite their actions. The lives of many Somalians could have been saved if a variety of things were different, but that isn’t necessarily something we can put on one small group of a much larger country.

  6. Ashley Hall says:

    Hey Joesph,

    I think the desensitization of our culture is a really big problem that the U.S. is currently facing. Because we live in such a fortunate country in which we take for granted so many things, it’s hard to believe that things are completely different elsewhere. A lot of what our culture has taught us, or me personally, is that if there isn’t a tangible problem I’m not responsible to fix it. Anthropologists have the fortunate ability to see through the smoke and mirrors that our society imposes, and can study what exactly makes us tick. It’s very interesting to see just how much politics influences much of what we not only do as a country, but as individuals. Placing blame on politics is very important in this issue, however, we must also take responsibility as individuals. Our government is a reflection of our society. We chose officials that may not have compassion for what happens in Somalia because they believe it is best to focus on the U.S. first. Perhaps anthropologists should also examine why our culture is so easily appeased by our elected officials, despite their actions. The lives of many Somalians could have been saved if a variety of things were different, but that isn’t necessarily something we can put on one small group of a much larger country.

  7. Alex Palffy says:

    Somalia has always intrigued me (started with when Black Hawk Down came out) because of how complicated the situation there is. It is truly saddening to hear about the tens of thousands of people who lose their lives through starvation when we live in a country where it’s nearly impossible to starve. Somalia has no central government (an effective one, at least) and is largely run by tribes/gangs of warlords. There are even pirates! The US along with the UN and NATO intervened in 1994 by sending millions in aid, food, and peacekeepers. The food drops were almost always seized by the main warlord of the time and still the Somali people starved. Americans and UN Peacekeepers from all over the world died in Somalia trying to end the famine to no avail. That was almost 20 years ago and Somalia still has no central government or control over these warlords. So, saying that US politicians could be doing something to influence policy and that they lack compassion because of their inaction is a little iffy. I’m not defending the politicians (because they do lack compassion and by all accounts suck) but fixing Somalia would require something akin to the Iraqi Invasion – and I really doubt the US will willingly go into another massive clusterfuck any time soon.

  8. Danielle Gittleman says:

    I found this post to be very interesting because it really is something that I never thought of before. I agree with you 100% on the problems going on in Africa. If you think about it, it has been going on for years. I mean, look at Darfur and Rwanda? We learn about these genocides and poverty but it seems as though we turn s blind eye towards what is going on because we don’t think that we can do anything. Granted, some of us donate and try to help, but only when it is most convenient for us. In one of the earlier comments, a student stated that we have become desensitized to what is going on in the world around us. I think that this statement is very true. Americans kind of have the though process that because it isn’t happening here, it’s okay to ignore it and live up our lives. Well politics is also a big part of this too because there are many things that the government does not mention so the information we are getting is very filtered. In Somalia, it seems as though our food aids have actually hurt rather than helped. So, it seems that it is very hard to think that there really is anything that we can do for these millions of people living day by day in famine and fear. We need to realize that it is our job to see the world as one and all. Even though we are far away from Somalia, I think that it is really important for us to learn about their culture and alternative ways to help rather than throwing in the towels.

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