Now that Congress has all but raised the roof on our debt, we can all give our undivided attention to Shark Week and the Bachelorette finale, which can you believe the way Chrystie judged J.P. just because—oh, hell what is this on the cover of today's New York Times? The Gray Lady isn't letting readers off the hook today, with one of the most arresting front pages in recent memory, showing a malnourished child at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, where more than 500,000 Somali children are verging on starvation. If you need a reality check, today the Times is on it.
The worst drought in half a century has crippled the Horn of Africa and devastated the perpetually war-torn country of Somalia, where an Al Qaeda-affiliated Muslim group, Shabab, controls much of the sourthern part of the country. Jeffrey Gettleman reports that the group, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, has "been blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory."
"If this were Haiti, we would have dozens of [aid workers] on the ground by now,” says Eric James, an official with the American Refugee Committee, a private aid organization. But because the security situation is so volatile, and the U.S. forbids providing any aid that passes through Shabab's hands, millions of Somalians have been left to starve. The U.N.'s World Food Program is currently on the ground and, CBS reports, feeding 200,000 people in desperate need. But an estimated 2.2 million in southern Somalia are dying from famine.
The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is considering easing some anti-terrorism restrictions in Somalia, to enable aid groups to pay "taxes" or tolls demanded by Shabab on food shipments. "The question is, can we live with some diversion of aid to stop the famine?" Ken Menkhaus, a Davidson College professor and expert on Somalia, asks the Post. "The fear on the part of the Obama administration is of being put in a position, by opponents, of channeling food aid to terrorists."