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Rift Valley Institute

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Somaliland: Terrorism Exacerbates the Crippling of a Rotten Aid System in Hungry Somalia

Recovering malnourished children sit along the corridors of the paediatric ward at the Banadir hospital in Somalias capital Mogadishu August 25 2011. REUTERS

Aid workers in Somalia, which faces worsening hunger three years after famine struck the country, believe the humanitarian system is "rotten" and are hamstrung by fears of being prosecuted for aiding terrorists, an expert said.

"We have been struck by a palpable sense of malaise amongst many of the Western humanitarian actors … that the system is rotten," said Professor Daniel Maxwell from Tufts University's Feinstein International Center.

"The aid system generally corrupts both recipients and providers," he told a debate on lessons learned from 2011.


Aid workers at the debate organised by Rift Valley Institute researchers agreed they were too late to respond to the 2011 famine and expressed fears the same mistake could be repeated.

The famine, caused by failed rains, conflict and a ban on agencies delivering food in al Shabaab territory, ended in 2012 with better rains and ramped up aid.

In 2014, the same cocktail of drought, conflict and lack of access has sparked renewed warnings from agencies.

Maxwell called for agencies to make more use of indicators of looming disaster like the price of food and livestock.

If rates fell below a certain level, it should trigger an automatic response from aid agencies to start using money already set aside, rather than wait until people are starving.

"Early action actually saves money, it doesn't cost money. But it requires that money be sitting there and be ready to go," Maxwell said.

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