What to do when leaders let their people starve

Posted on August 4, 2011


To starve to death is long and tortuous.

“Deprived of food long enough, the bodies of starving people break down muscle tissue to keep vital organs functioning. Diarrhea and skin rashes are common, as are fungal and other infections. As the stomach wastes away, the perception of hunger is reduced and lethargy sets in. Movement becomes immensely painful. Often it is dehydration that finally causes death, because the perception of thirst and a starving person’s ability to get water are both radically diminished”

This has been the fate of thousands of Somalians. It has been estimated that 29,000 Somali children under the age of 5 have died in the past 90 days as a result of the famine that is currently ravishing their country. 29,000 is a number that’s difficult to comprehend, but a far greater number of people are in need of immediate lifesaving assistance in the country: 3.2 million. Let’s put that into perspective. In Connecticut, the state where I live, the population is roughly 3.5 million. So imagine nearly every single person in the state of Connecticut either dead or about to die. That’s scary.

And what’s even scarier is that a famine doesn’t just happen, out of everyone’s control. Somebody (aka the government) allows a famine to occur.

“For all its horror, starvation is also one of the simpler forms of mortality to prevent — it just takes food. Drought, poor roads, poverty — all are contributing factors to the risk of famine, but sustenance in the hands of the hungry is a pretty foolproof solution. As a result, famine deaths in the modern world are almost always the result of deliberate acts on the part of governing authorities”

In the case of Somalia, terrorist group al-Shabab is outright denying that a famine is occurring and will not give the World Food Program access to the country.


There’s most definitely a famine…

So the question is, what does the U.S. do about it?

Nothing at all?

Donate money?

Send in troops to take out al-Shabab and other al-Qaeda linked ruling members?

Well, we have donated money and some of the high-ranking officers are already targets for U.S. drones. But in my opinion, none of those are great options. The author of the article “Foreign Policy: Murder by Starvation” (which is quoted above) argues that widespread famine is a crime against humanity and therefore, leaders who turn a blind eye to it should be tried at the International Criminal Court.

“So now would be as good a time as any to set a precedent with a U.N. Security Council referral of al-Shabab’s leadership to the ICC, on the grounds of crimes against humanity by method of mass starvation. That would make clear the international community fully understands that famine is not an act of God, but an act of mass murder”

I agree with this. The ICC has long lacked power and authority and I think it’s time that that changed. If the U.S. alone starts getting involved in Somalia under the banner of “a powerful country helping a weaker country by taking out its tyrant rulers”, then the weight of that is fully on us. I’ve already stressed in other posts that we need to turn more attention to problems within our borders instead of constantly trying to be an international hero. Putting the responsibility on the ICC would be a far smarter decision.

Challenges certainly face the ICC – namely a lack of state cooperation. But an effective ICC would solve crimes against humanity, which occur on such a scale that it is too much for a single country to properly deal with.

Terrorist group al-Shabab



Posted in: Politics