Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As Somali Crisis Swells, Experts See a Void in Aid: “The situation in Somalia is the worst on the continent,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top United Nations official for Somalia.

That situation has included floods, droughts, locusts, suicide bombers, roadside bombs and near-daily assassinations.

United Nations officials said the recent round of plagues, natural and man-made, coupled with the residual chaos that has consumed Somalia for more than a decade, have put the country on the brink of famine. In the worst-hit areas, like Afgooye, recent surveys indicate the malnutrition rate is 19 percent, compared with about 13 percent in Darfur; 15 percent is considered the emergency threshold.

Somalia is one of the strangest, most fascinating places on the planet. It has been without a government now for almost two decades and really exists as a state in name only. I recall reading an article in the New York Times grudgingly admiring the anarcho-capitalism that prevailed in Mogadishu, which has to be something of a fantasy for many hardcore capitalists within the US and elsewhere.

All fascination aside, Somalia is an explosive, perpetual tragedy. More coverage might result in more aid, but the heart of the problem in Somalia is as bafflingly simple as it is intractable: why can't people get along?

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