Monday, July 18, 2011

Failed States Cause Humanitarian Crises: The Situation in Dadaab.

For those of you who want to know what a nation without government looks like, look at Somalia. The government runs no, economic programs, social programs, schools, healthcare facilities or resource management of any kind. Somalia is a failed state according to this annual report from ForeignPolicy Magazine. The report also ranks it as the most unstable country in the world for 2011. The ongoing conflict there has led to a refugee crisis that has been left unsolved in the region for nearly 20 years (there are people in the region thought to have been living in camps for well over a decade). This is compounded by the fact that Somalia is suffering from extreme drought. Some parts of Somalia have not received rain in over two years. The results have been catasrophic as hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing Somalia for refugee camps in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya. The average Somali refugee spends 25 days walking from Somalia to the nearest refugee camp, often with no reliable sources of food or water. Many refugees in this mass exodus are reported to have traveled over 150 kilometers by foot to reach the camps. Once they arrive, prospects are not much better as the camps are many times past their intended capacity.

The refugees camp complex in Dadaab Kenya, containing many of the Somali refugees, is now the largest refugee camp in the world. And it is growing by as much as 1,500 per day according to this field news report from Doctors Without Borders. There are currently 370,000 inhabitants struggling to survive in a scant commuter town constantly being bombarded with dust/sand storms. Nearly all of then have no reliable access to safe food, clean water, or basic medical care. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees predicts the number of inhabitants at Dadaab (mostly women and children) will continue to surge, passing the 450,000 by the end of 2011.

The international community must begin to work together through the United Nations and various Non-Governmental Organizations to contain the chaos resulting from failed states. If this crisis on the Horn of Africa is an indication of the international community's willingness to deal with preventable, large scale, humanitarian crises in the 21st century, humanity can expect to see the number of people dying from preventable causes such as war, disease, starvation, and climate destabilization to continue to increase. As the number of failed states continues to rise, so too will global terrorism, piracy, corruption, and conflict. As for now, the people flocking to Dadaab can only hope that ecological, social, and political tensions in region will begin to ease soon. As of now, the chances of any of those things improving in the short term are distantly remote.

To learn more about the situation in Habaab, please watch these short video clips from MSNBC online.

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