Iraqi Kurdish soldiers and Syrian rebels join the battle against ISIS in Kobani, the search continues for missing students in Mexico, and the last U.S. Marines pull out of a key base in Afghanistan. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for a conversation about the week's top international stories.
The U.N. estimates more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa need emergency aid. Drought and famine in Somalia have displaced a quarter of the nation. Families sometimes walk hundreds of miles to reach over-crowded refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. This week the Obama administration eased rules that placed restrictions on U.S. charity groups giving aid to Somalia. Concerns remain that a Somali-based militant group linked to al-Qaida could benefit from relief funds and supplies. But the needs are dire. The U.S. Agency for International Development says 29,000 Somali children have died in the past three months. Diane and her guests will discuss the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and what can be done to help.
- Jeremy Konyndyk director of policy and advocacy for Mercy Corps.
- Kristalina Georgieva EU commissioner responsible for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
- Ken Menkhaus professor, political science, Davidson College; specialist on Somalia.
- Dr. Rajiv Shah administrator, USAID.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The U.N. has declared three new areas of famine in Somalia. The Horn of Africa has been devastated by its worst drought and famine in 60 years. We'll talk with relief experts who've just returned from the region, as well as those who understand the politics that have kept millions from getting the help they need.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio, Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College, Kristalina Georgieva of the European Union and Jeremy Konyndyk of Mercy Corps. And we'll take your calls throughout the hour, 800-433-8850. We'll take your email, your Facebook postings and your tweets. Good morning to all of you.
PROF. KEN MENKHAUSGood morning.
MR. JEREMY KONYNDYKGood morning.
REHMYour -- Kristalina, if I could start with you, I know you've recently returned from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya. Tell us what you saw.
MS. KRISTALINA GEORGIEVAIt is heartbreaking. This is the worst humanitarian emergency I have seen in the last years. And we have had many. We had Haiti. We had Pakistan. What one sees there are primarily women and kids walking days and days and days, trying to get help either in Ethiopia or in Kenya, and I'm talking about the Somali refugees. I talked to a mother.
MS. KRISTALINA GEORGIEVAShe left 25 days, walked with her five kids and, unfortunately, arrived in the Dadaab camp in Kenya with only two. She lost three on the road. And what is amazing is that the scale of this is so huge, and -- I mean, we are talking about 12 million people affected. That number may grow, spread on a vast territory in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, with months and months and months to go.
MS. KRISTALINA GEORGIEVAAt best, we are hoping for rain and change by the end of the year. But people there are telling me it may be all the way until August next year.
REHMOf next year. So what they are facing -- is the famine because of the drought? Or are there other aspects involved?
GEORGIEVAThe two big factors are the drought and then the conflict in Somalia that is pushing Somalis in search for safety and food in neighboring countries. And if you look down the road, not only we have to worry about these millions of people at risk, but we need to worry about two other things. One is the implication for Kenya and Ethiopia of the Somali refugees. And, actually, some of them go to Yemen, the poorest Arab country, also very fragile.
GEORGIEVAAnd, two, we need to worry about our capacity to reflect on this drought. Take it as a wake-up call that climate change is here. And the next drought will come, and the next drought will come. And so...
REHMTell me about the warring parties in Somalia that are, in part, leading these families to flee.
GEORGIEVAThe most dangerous areas are al-Shabab-controlled areas. Unfortunately, this is most of the south of Somalia. And this is exactly where the famine hits. And what we see is that, first, a small number of humanitarian organizations stayed in Somalia. They're brave to be there.
GEORGIEVAWhat they are reporting is that in many places now, the local chiefs are turning against al-Shabab, or even al-Shabab in some areas is -- they see their communities dying. They're opening up more towards getting help. But 18 organizations were expelled. The number of people on the ground is not sufficient to provide the assistance that is necessary. Today, at most optimistic data, we probably can reach a million Somalis.
GEORGIEVAAnd they are approximately close to 4 million that are in need of help. I'm told when I -- I actually saw a local chief participating in food distribution in south Somalia and providing protection to the humanitarian workers. And I talked to him. He said, look, we want help, and we also want to be able to help Somalis that are now walking to Ethiopia. This is a village close to the border with Ethiopia.
GEORGIEVAAnd they say, we need resources. Help us to help them to stay here in Somalia. And, of course, this means less of an impact on Kenya and on Ethiopia.
REHMKristalina Georgieva, she is European Union commissioner responsible for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. I wonder, Ken Menkhaus, tell us how the Patriot Act has gotten involved in the whole issue of food distribution to areas like Somalia and -- especially now in Somalia.
MENKHAUSThe Patriot Act forbids knowingly providing material benefits to a group designated as terrorist. And al-Shabab was designated as a terrorist organization in 2008 by the U.S. government. So what that has meant is the U.S. government suspended its humanitarian assistance offered through U.N.-specialized agencies and NGOs into southern Somalia as of 2009 for the past two years. It's one of three major impediments to getting food aid in.
MENKHAUSThe other two is the insecurity that Kristalina just talked about, which is endemic and which is not just related to Shabab. And then the third is the Shabab policy over the past 18 months of forbidding most aid agencies from coming in, denying that there's a famine and blocking the food aid in. The good news is we're seeing some progress from the U.S. government on the Patriot Act on a license offered to NGOs.
MENKHAUSAnd Jeremy is actually in a much better position to talk about that.
REHMAnd, actually, Jeremy, I gather you attended a Senate hearing at which all this was discussed yesterday.
KONYNDYKYeah, that's correct. I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Africa subcommittee on this yesterday. This issue with the legal restriction is something that we've been struggling with in Somalia for about two years now. And I think that it's a complex one.
KONYNDYKThere are restrictions, as Ken was saying, that prevent certain kinds of transactions, but more broadly create a lot of legal risk for NGOs if we're operating in the south. So what's happened now or what seems to be happening now is that the U.S. government is waving some of those restrictions with regard to funding from the U.S. government.
KONYNDYKHowever, NGOs are still in a difficult position when it comes to fundraising from other sources. So if my organization, Mercy Corps, were, for example, to get a grant from you, from Kristalina's outfit, that would not be covered by this exemption. So we would still basically...
KONYNDYKThat's a good question for the U.S. government. I think, right now, the extent of the protections have only been extended to U.S. government-funded activities.
REHMIt sounds as though -- and I'd be interested in your thoughts, Jeremy. It sounds as though the human need is being somehow second-rated to the political rules.
KONYNDYKI think it's -- the U.S. government has been struggling to balance a lot of different priorities with respect to Somalia. And I think that it has been difficult for some of the humanitarian needs to fully break through into that debate and that discussion. And what we've seen, since the famine was declared, is that those priorities have been elevated quite considerably, and that, I think, is leading to the change we're seeing now.
REHMAnd you've heard the voice of Jeremy Konyndyk. He is director of policy and advocacy for Mercy Corps. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Ken, has anyone been successfully prosecuted under the Patriot Act for providing aid?
MENKHAUSWe had a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, a year or so ago, involving a peace organization that was operating in the West Bank. And they were accused of providing indirect benefits to Hamas. And the Supreme Court ruled narrowly -- rather, they interpreted the Patriot Act very narrowly and in terms of what constitutes material benefits.
MENKHAUSSo that had a real chilling effect on both the U.S. government agencies and NGOs in terms of what they think they can and can be held -- can't be held liable for.
GEORGIEVAWell, there are two very important questions. The first question is, can the world really afford to have a failed state in the Horn of Africa? Can we close our eyes, not just close our hearts to people who are hungry today, but close our eyes that there is a whole country that is there and that needs to be part of the global community of nations?
GEORGIEVAAnd, I think, now, the famine is going to bring back attention to what has been neglected in the last years, and that is how can we -- how can Somalia, which is a class society, where local chiefs that we now see during the famine even more have stepped into the vacuum of power -- how can, on that basis, there could be a country that is capable of taking care of its people? And, obviously, by just shutting down, that's not going to happen.
REHMKristalina Georgieva of the European Union. Short break. And when we come back, we'll talk about population growth in Somalia, a crucial issue.
REHMAnd welcome back. The phones are open if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850, as we talk about the crisis in parts of Somalia. And, Jeremy, you just might clarify for us what areas are truly and terribly affected.
KONYNDYKWell, the whole country has been affected by the drought, but the really, really severe conditions, the things that people have been seeing in the news for the last several weeks, are really concentrated in the southern half of the country. In the northern half of the country, things are difficult. People are in a desperate situation, but there are functional government structures out there.
KONYNDYKThere are two self-governing areas called Somaliland and Puntland, that both have reasonably competent governments. And then in the central regions as well, while they're somewhat outside of the scope of Somaliland and Puntland, they are more stable and more secure than the situation in the south. And in all of those areas, the humanitarian conditions, while difficult, are not as desperate as what we've seen in the south.
REHMBut everything could spread, is that correct, Kristalina?
GEORGIEVAThe future is not going to be easy because the predictions are that the so-called short rains in October are going to ease the hunger, but they are not going to resolve it. So, yes, we have to be prepared to assist on a broader scale. And if I can just make one very interesting observation, we're currently focused, and rightly so, on the most vulnerable -- kids under five -- and we provide high-nutrition food to these kids.
GEORGIEVABut the Somali society, the Ethiopian society, the Kenyan society, these are sharing societies. So a mother gets food for the baby that needs it, but then she shares it with everybody else in the family. So the support efforts have to be in waves. We need to target most vulnerable kids, but then we need to target adolescent kids.
GEORGIEVAWe need to have food for them and for the broader population because, otherwise, we are going to see a very high mortality hit from this crisis.
REHMAnd joining us now by phone, Dr. Rajiv Shah. He's administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Good morning to you, sir.
DR. RAJIV SHAHGood morning, Diane.
REHMPlease tell us how the U.S. is responding to this crisis in Africa.
SHAHWell, thank you for calling attention to this. You know, I was just at the Dadaab refugee camp and saw child after child come in after 30- or 40-day treks on foot, often suffering from robberies and violence along the way and arriving in such a weak condition that 4-year-olds that weigh eight or nine kilograms, mothers that have had to -- have had children pass away on these long and painful walks. And they need immediate medical assistance.
SHAHThey need immediate feeding support and other types of health interventions just to save their lives. The United States, at President Obama's direction, has been aggressive about providing as much support as we possibly can. We have been about 50 percent of the total global response. And, years ago, we created something called the Famine Early Warning System that allowed us to see this coming in August, September and October of last year.
SHAHAnd since then, we've spent $460 million, and we've reached 4.5 million people with, in some cases, basic life-saving food and medicine, and, in many, many more cases, with water and meat and high-protein foods to help millions of people in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia and Northern Somalia stay in their communities and try to survive this drought without having to leave their communities and go on these long death walks.
REHMDr. Shah, explain the new rules, as you see them, for U.S. charities trying to give aid to Somalia.
SHAHWell, the famine declaration has been limited to those areas inside of South and Central Somalia, where Shabab and other governance mechanisms have essentially prevented humanitarian activity from taking place. And what the United States government has done is to say that any NGO partner or U.N. partner that is taking risks to work in those areas will not be subject to prosecution, should they be attacked or should food or assets that they are trying to provide to starving children be subject to seizure or confiscation.
SHAHThese are organizations that are very responsible. By the way, they, for their own safety and security, have signed pledges not to pay taxes or tolls or bribes. They are very careful to work with the most vulnerable people and work very carefully to avoid providing any material support to al-Shabab or other designated organizations.
REHMBut I gather some USAID groups are still concerned that they could be prosecuted under the Patriot Act.
SHAHWell, they won't be prosecuted by us. You know, the real issue here is not the legal standing. The real issue is whether Shabab and other clan leaders in local and South and Central Somalia will allow unfettered humanitarian access.
SHAHAnd we have a unique window here of six to eight weeks, where if we can reach vulnerable populations with vaccines, with medicines and with emergency feeding, especially children, we can prevent the next wave of mortality and death from being as severe as the 29,000 deaths we've seen over the last month or two. So, you know, this is an urgent situation.
SHAHWe're very focused on saving lives in the humanitarian priority. And we, together with our partners, are being careful but focused and results-oriented in trying to save as many lives as possible, not just in Somalia, but throughout the Horn of Africa, where 12.5 million people are at risk.
REHMOne further issue is the amount of aid that's being given to Somalia this year, as -- or last year, as opposed to 2008, when the U.S. gave $237 million to about $28 million last year. Why is this amount of money dropping so radically?
SHAHWell, we've actually provided significant support in and around Somalia. And a lot of our support goes to those border communities in an effort to have food go through local markets and reach vulnerable populations in South and Central Somalia because there isn't the basic safe humanitarian access. The World Food Programme, which has been our largest partner, suffered 14 casualties from attacks.
SHAHAnd they were -- and thrown out of Somalia and had to leave in January of 2010. Since then, basic humanitarian access and space to operate has been constricted. And, you know, even now in South and Central Somalia, they're out. They're publicly saying there is no famine. So we are working hard to ensure as much access as is possible and to save as many lives as is possible.
SHAHAnd our support has been very robust, $460 million reaching 4.5 million people. But also in Somalia, through the parts of the north and through parts where we can have access, we're doing absolutely everything we can.
REHMOne last question, Dr. Shah. And I appreciate your time. The population in Kenya, for example, has increased five times from 8 million to 4 million. It's going to double again in the next 25 years in Somalia. It was 2.3 million at independence, and they've increased five times to 10 million people. How much education and birth control information is the U.S. able to provide?
SHAHWell, thank you for asking that because it speaks to the point that we know that given population growth, climate change and pressures on food production all around the world, that the Horn of Africa will suffer more famines, more failed states and more food riots over time if we don't make those smart long-term interventions in food security and helping their farmers -- mostly women farmers -- produce enough food for their communities and in helping children gain access, particularly girls, to education and health so that they can be productive contributing members to their economy and delay the age at which they have birth and reduce the number of children that they give birth to.
SHAHAnd we have had a strong track record, and President Obama has launched a program called Feed the Future to do exactly that in these countries. And we're doing that because we know it is cheaper, more efficient and more important for our national security and our economic prosperity to prevent these kinds of famines from happening in the first place. We know how to do that.
SHAHWe just have to have the will as a general public to make these investments in a smart, results-oriented way and to insist on success over time.
REHMIs the U.S. and your agency, in particular, restricted by any U.S. regulation against providing birth control information?
SHAHWe are able to support maternal health, child health and family planning programs and have been able to do that in these areas. At different points in time, there have been regulations that have severely restricted the capacity of those programs to be effective.
SHAHAnd we continue to try to avoid that and make sure that we're doing things in a way that helps to reach women and girls, in particular, with health services and basic information, so they can make their own choices.
REHMBut you haven't quite answered my question. Are you, as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, restricted in any way from providing birth control information to these young women?
SHAHWe're not currently under those restrictions. But in some of the legislation that's been proposed in Congress, we would, once again, be subject to those types of restrictions, which would dramatically scale back our capacity to help these populations control the level of population growth. So the answer is, not immediately. But that's on the table (unintelligible).
REHMYeah. How do you plan to fight back against those kinds of regulations?
SHAHWell, the way we're fighting back is we're working with the military community, with the business community and with faith-based organizations, all of whom are coming together to say that if we can make smart investments in health and development that are driven by the data around achieving real results, we can reduce the rate of population growth. We can get more girls into school, into primary and secondary school.
SHAHAnd we can help these economies become vibrant economies that are effective trading partners with us, creating jobs at home and preventing the kinds of famines, failed states, food riots and security challenges that we now see taking hold throughout the Horn of Africa. And it's the right thing for Americans to do. It's the smart thing for Americans to do. There's been a strong bipartisan legacy over 60 years of America's proactive role in the world.
SHAHAnd we need to maintain that, even as we are being very responsible about our overall fiscal situation.
REHMDr. Rajiv Shah, he is administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Thank you so much for joining us.
SHAHThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have many callers. We'll open the phones now, 800-433-8850. To East Lansing, Mich. Good morning, Mike. You're on the air.
MIKEThanks for having me on. I got a question, and it's going to sound very insensitive. But the question has to be asked. For decades, Somalia and, you know, and Africa, as a whole, has always suffered famine and plagues and food shortages and water and disease and so on and so forth. But they yet -- but they keep bringing children into that situation, into that environment, knowing what they're bringing their children into.
MIKEMy question is, why should we help them at this point? They're acting very irresponsible by bringing children, not only into that situation, but already into a very overpopulated world.
GEORGIEVAWe should help them for two reasons. The first one is because this is morally and ethically the right thing to do. But the second reason is ourselves and our own children and their future. Because unless we work on getting places like the Horn of Africa to be more stable, of course, this instability is not going to stay over there. It is going to flow to the rest of the world.
GEORGIEVAAnd I certainly do not want an unstable world to be the one where my daughter and my granddaughter are to live in the future.
REHMLet me ask you, Kristalina, about the education for young women that perhaps the E.U. is providing apart from rules governing the United States.
GEORGIEVAWell, the focus on girls, in particular, is so absolutely crucial. And when we do it, girls and women actually do bring change. And I want to give two examples. One is Moyale in Kenya, Northern Kenya, a district that is squeezed between two very badly affected by the famine today -- well, by hunger areas. And so the question is, why is this district, Moyale, not having the same impact, why malnutrition rates are half of the neighbors?
GEORGIEVAAnd the answer is because their enlightened local leadership has invested into disaster risk reduction, has worked with us, with their partners, and they have developed a very smart mobile clinic system that reaches out to women. I was there. The clinic arrives, and you see women running from far away. They come. They get help. They get medical care. And they also get some medical education that is so crucial today with this problem.
GEORGIEVAAnd the second example, in Niger, last year, we gave there 30 euros -- this is, like, $40 -- per family. But we gave it to women, not to the men. So what the women did was they used the money very wisely to feed their kids and also to invest in agriculture. And I asked a man, I said, well, how did you feel that we gave the money to the women and not to you? And he said, you know, initially, I really didn't like it.
GEORGIEVABut then, if you were to give the money to me, I would have bought a bicycle. My kids would have gone to bed hungry, and we would have had no seeds for the next planting season. So, yes, investment in empowering girls and women are absolutely essential in places like Kenya and Ethiopia and Somalia and Niger.
REHMJeremy, you must agree with that.
KONYNDYKYeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, to the caller's question, we need to understand the different factors that actually go into fertility rate in a country. And you can't do an apples-to-apples comparison of reproductive choices in the U.S. and reproductive choices in Somalia. And girls' education, women's education level is hugely tied to fertility levels.
KONYNDYKWhen you have a very, very low education level for women and girls, that's going to tie to a higher reproductive rate.
REHMJeremy Konyndyk, he is director of policy and advocacy for Mercy Corps. And if you'd like to join us, give us a call, send us a tweet. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAs we talk about the situation in parts of Somalia where famine is rampant, here's a Facebook posting from Tom, who says, "Is anyone working on a political solution in Somalia so as to prevent this situation from recurring in the future? We cannot kill our way out of this problem, eliminating al-Shabab. We need an intensive effort to create Somali government institutions." And what say you to that?
MENKHAUSTom is certainly correct. We definitely need a political solution. One of the observations that many people make is that the ability of populations in the northeast and northwest of Somalia to survive this drought -- even though they are in a much more arid part of the country, the south is actually the area where there are flowing rivers and enough rainfall for agriculture. And yet that's where the famine is occurring.
MENKHAUSIt's because there's better governance in the north, and that keeps social networks intact. It allows for people to help one another. It allows commerce to flow. Somalia is a commerce-rich area. It -- this is -- a lot of this is really about purchasing power. Food is available. But people have ran out of means to pay for it in the south, whereas, they have it in the north.
MENKHAUSThe problem, in terms of rebuilding governance in the south, is that Shabab is not a viable option. Where it governs, its policies are draconian, deeply unpopular with the Somali people. This is actually a Jihadi movement in crisis and is likely to be fragmented and decline in coming years. But the alternative is a transitional federal government, which has been in place for seven years. It exists in a few neighborhoods of Mogadishu.
MENKHAUSIt's protected by 9,000 African Union peacekeeping forces. And, unfortunately, after seven years of transition, this thing has still not become even remotely functional. We're all very, very disappointed. And I think the big question, politically, that will come up in the next year is what to do about that. Do we need to move beyond the transitional federal government and help the Somalis try something entirely new?
REHMAll right. To Grosse Pointe, Mich. Sharmaki, (sp?) you're on the air. Are you there, Sharmaki? I guess not. To Peoria, Ill. Good morning, Ese. (sp?)
ESEYes, hello. Hi. I actually have a few points. I'm not sure exactly where to begin, but it's kind of a slash-comment-slash-question. I just find it absolutely unbelievable. From what I've heard so far, the State Department pledged some $40 million in aid to Somalia to help out with the famine. I'm not sure if that figure has changed. But despite that, 29,000 children have still lost their lives. I think it's absolutely irresponsible. It's unbelievable.
ESEI don't understand how, despite the aid, 29,000 children have still lost their lives. And one other thing I'd like to make, another point I'd like to make is I find that the fact the international community can even give credibility to the organization al-Shabab is utterly ridiculous. Al-Shabab should not be treated as a relevant factor. It's a terrorist organization.
ESEAnd they've done nothing but to bring instability and, in fact, prevent any further aid from being given to the people. So they're a completely irrelevant organization, and they should not be given any form of credibility by any government.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Ken.
MENKHAUSAl-Shabab is not an irrelevant organization. It is the strongest armed group in southern Somalia. It controls all the territory from the Kenyan border through most of the capital, Mogadishu, and up toward Puntland. So we can't ignore it. The problem is we can't engage with it either because it is designated as a terrorist organization, and that's been the knob of the problem.
MENKHAUSWe can't get humanitarian aid in without violating the Patriot Act and benefiting Shabab because, frankly, almost any resource that's introduced into Somalia will benefit the armed groups that control those areas in varying degrees. Some nonprofits and local Somali communities are better than others at keeping Shabab at arms' length. The good news is Shabab is not a monolithic organization.
MENKHAUSIt is fractured internally over lots of issues, including this one, as to whether or not to allow humanitarian relief in. There are Shabab groups and leaders who want to cooperate with the international community to get aid into their people. There are other constituency-free Shabab leaders who come from other parts of the country who are indifferent to the cause of their own policies on local populations.
REHMAnd now, chieftains who are willing to go against al-Shabab?
MENKHAUSThere are Somalis, both clan elders and civic leaders, who have quietly been either negotiating with or resisting Shabab. Shabab is not a particularly powerful group. It's only a few thousand fighters spread over a very large territory. So they don't -- they -- this is not a state within a state along the lines of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
MENKHAUSAnd so they have to negotiate with local authorities, and that's where I think we -- the NGOs may have some advantages in gaining access.
REHMBut, Kristaline, going back to his primary question, how in the world could 29,000 children die?
GEORGIEVAWe are paying a big price for Somalia lacking development for years and years and years. We are paying a big price for areas in Kenya and in Ethiopia where development is still lagging behind. Money today is not the problem because there has been a very generous response from the international community. Europe alone has provided $500 million.
GEORGIEVAWhat is the problem is to turn money into food, water, medical care and deliver it across a vast territory where roads are terrible, hospitals are terrible and where, in Somalia, the number of people who were allowed to work as humanitarians is very limited. We are talking about, at best, 1,000 to 1,200 people to deliver help.
KONYNDYKYeah, I think the development point, the long-term development point is really critical to understanding how this crisis came about. If you look at Ethiopia and Kenya, which are affected by the exact same drought as Somalia, even parts of northern Somalia -- again, it's very bad. It's desperate.
KONYNDYKBut we don't see anywhere near the sort of death rates that we're seeing within Somalia -- southern Somalia and the amounts of people who are fully in that part of the country.
MENKHAUSCould I just add a point?
MENKHAUSWe've been focusing on our international assistance to Somalia and how important that is, and it is. But we don't want to overlook the fact that there is also an enormous flow of money that goes back into Somalia in terms of remittances from the large Somali diasporas, over 1.5 million Somalis living abroad. They save every penny they can and send back, we estimate now, close to $2 billion a year.
MENKHAUSThat's what's been keeping this country afloat. That's what's been giving the purchasing power. And the Somali diaspora is ratcheting up in terms of providing relief to their family and friends.
REHMNow, here's a question about money going into trying to help those in Somalia. It's from someone who made a donation to the UNHCR website to benefit Somali refugees. "That same day, I received unauthorized charges on my debt card -- debit card. I emailed the UNHCR website, received no response. I'm completely discouraged to make more online donations because of this." How much fraud is there involved, Kristalina?
GEORGIEVAI would very much doubt that UNHCR, a very reputable organization, twice granted the Nobel Prize for peace, is creating, on its own, fraud. I would more assume that, in this case, there was an error. And I would personally follow up with UNHCR to make sure that they pay attention to it. But, unfortunately, we know fraud is massive.
GEORGIEVAI mean, I -- when I was in Nairobi, I got twice charged on my credit card for my stay in the hotel. So we all have to be, obviously, alert on that.
REHMAnd to Potomac, Md. Good morning, Arlene.
ARLENEOh, hi, Diane. Thank you so much. Listen, I know this is not a cure, but I was curious about the cause. And I know America is a great contributor to global weather change. Has the drought situation historically changed dramatically in -- according to your knowledge?
GEORGIEVAYes. When we look at the weather dater, unquestionably, climate change is a reality. We have, now, more frequent and more intense weather events. The drought there, when you talk to local people, they would say, I don't remember anything like this. This is a drought that, in fact, has lasted for five years. And here is a message for all of us: If we want the next drought to be a -- gentler on people, we have to invest in adaptation.
GEORGIEVAWe need to invest in drought resilience and help communities do so. And that has to be a massive effort of the local authorities, of the national government, and of the international donor community.
KONYNDYKThis is a really critical point. We've -- Mercy Corps has had teams going across northeastern Kenya and Eastern Ethiopia doing assessments. And people who have been living there for decades are saying this is the worst they have ever seen in their lives. They've never seen anything like this. What's really important are the sorts of programs that we've been doing in Ethiopia for years now, which try to help people to better manage the natural resources that they have in their environment.
KONYNDYKSo, for example, I was in this region, the eastern region of Ethiopia, about a year ago, visiting our programs that prepare people for this sort of event, help them to better manage water resources, conserve the water resources that they have, use them more wisely, and also prevent -- you know, there's an interesting phenomenon in this region where the ground gets so dry that when it does rain, it just washes away.
KONYNDYKAnd we see this is going to be a huge threat in the fall when the next rainy season comes. But it is something that we can manage. And so, for example, in Eastern Ethiopia, we've done programs that try to dam up gullies, build berms along hillsides to retain more of the water in the hills, and then keep crops in the valleys below from being washed away. And that's ...
MENKHAUSThis region is -- has always been vulnerable to extreme fluctuations in weather, perhaps more than any other part of the world. One in every five years, there's an extreme drought. One in every five years, there's an extreme flood. The fact is, in the past, communities developed coping mechanisms to deal with these periodic, routinized natural disasters.
MENKHAUSThose coping mechanisms have been shattered by a variety of different factors, some of our own making, many others of theirs, not least of which is the fact that we've got a massive population of internally displaced persons whose livelihoods have been destructed in Somalia, whose coping mechanisms are really limited. The...
MENKHAUSLet me -- the other point -- I'm sorry...
REHMYeah, I know.
MENKHAUS...that I wanted to make is that the climate change is exacerbated by man-made factors locally, especially deforestation. Most of Ethiopia used to be a canopy of trees. It's almost all gone. Most of Somali -- southern Somalia's acacia forest has been cut down for charcoal, exported by Shabab. Shabab's leading source of finances is this charcoal export out of Kismayo.
REHMKen Menkhaus, he is professor of political science at Davidson College. He is a specialist on Somalia. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." But you, Kristalina, have said, Somalia, the drought, is a wake-up call for the world in terms of what's happening to climate.
GEORGIEVAIt is. It is. Because what we are recognizing is that the scale, the scope, the impact is much more dramatic. And what we see, not only in terms of droughts, but also in terms of floods, in terms of winter and summer storms, is that across the globe, we are already facing the consequences of climate change. And yet our consolidated effort to adapt to climate change falls a bit short of what is necessary.
REHMAll right. To Conway, Ark., good morning, Paul.
PAULDiane, I just want to say God bless you. You have a great show.
PAULPeople in Arkansas love you. And for your panelists, thank you, folks, for your efforts to make our world a better world, you, in particular, the young lady, Katalina, what an honorable person. My comment regards in the year 1995, a Pulitzer Prize journalist took a picture in the country of Ethiopia. A child was crawling with a vulture watching it die. I took that picture, put it on my desk to remind myself of the world we live in. Katalina, how do we change this? What can we do?
GEORGIEVAWhat we do is to build, as much as possible, awareness across the globe that we are all interdependent. Today, we are 7 billion people on our small planet. If we want our kids to inherit from us a place that is livable and enjoyable, we all need to contribute in our own way. So this is really a task for humankind to recognize that, yes, our world today is richer. The world economy is something like $60-, $65 trillion, and it is growing.
GEORGIEVABut our world is also more fragile, and in this more fragile world we have to recognize our interdependence. And we have to, at the community level, country level, global level, we have to learn to help each other to collaborate more because, without collaboration, we can't resolve it. None of us can resolve it. No institution can resolve it, but together we can make a difference.
REHMAnd a number of people have called, wanting know how they can help. If you go to our website, dianerehmshow.org, you can click on links that will take you to the major aid organizations involved in the Horn of Africa crisis: Mercy Corps, American Red Cross, Oxfam International, USAID and UNICEF.
REHMThank you all so much for being here, Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College, Kristalina Georgieva, E.U. commissioner and Jeremy Konyndyk, director of policy and advocacy for Mercy Corps. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Sarah Ashworth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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