Somalia: Pirates Just a Piece of the Puzzle
23 Apr 2009 Written by: Refugees International
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More than 3 million Somalis are dependent on external assistance; over 1 million are internally displaced; and another 500,000 and counting have sought refuge in neighboring countries. Yet, as the humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate, the world is focused on a lone “pirate” in New York. I can’t help but question where our humanity and moral resolve lies. What was even more disturbing was how the attention on the “alleged pirate” was justified in a recent CNN article. “He's just a little skinny guy, you know, from Somalia where they're all starving and stuff…If he goes to jail here, it will be a whole lot better than living in Somalia.” Such careless sentiments, that suggest imprisonment as a solution to the problems facing the people of Somalia, illustrate the gross misunderstanding of the humanitarian conditions in this failed state. Many reports of recent events have correctly deduced that the overwhelming piracy in the Gulf of Aden is a result of pervasive lawlessness within Somalia. However, what most have failed to mention is that Somalia is currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. This fact will not change until the U.S. and its allies direct attention to the millions of people suffering on land, while the world gazes out to sea.Refugees International has publicly called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to address the humanitarian situation in Somalia instead of focusing US policy solely on maritime operations. Tomorrow, US representatives will be in Brussels with other world leaders at the United Nations and European Union’s conference to address the security situation in Somalia. It is critical that the agenda look broadly at security conditions inside the country and, more importantly, stay focused on ensuring the delivery of life saving assistance. This past Sunday, three aid workers were kidnapped and another was killed in central Somalia. These acts were not perpetuated by pirates, but reinforce the overwhelming lawlessness within this region.The US should not allow recent events to shift overall policy away from the root of the crisis. The new government offers the best opportunity in almost 20 years to restore peace, security and stability in Somalia. This is not the time to dedicate millions of dollars to a narrow security agenda, when roughly 60% of the UN’s 2009 appeal for aid in the country has yet to be funded and the current African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is under-staffed and under-resourced. President Sharif agrees that a comprehensive solution is needed to improve conditions and bring security and stability to the region. The US and other donors should utilize the world’s attention on Somalia as an impetus for constructive international engagement that meets the humanitarian needs of millions of displaced Somalis.