WASHINGTON, D.C. – With more than three million people in Somalia facing extreme food shortages and widespread famine, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the Administration to ramp up aid to Somalia. In a letter sent today, Brown, a member of the powerful State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, called on U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton to increase humanitarian aid and refugee assistance.
“The Somali people are suffering under not only an unstable government, but also extreme famine and drought,” Brown said. “Although a global response is necessary, the U.S. must lead the way in providing assistance to the people of Somalia while ensuring the access and safety of aid workers.”
The United Nations has declared famine in five regions of Somalia and the senators noted this famine comes following decades of political dysfunction, recurrent food shortages, and more recently, terror by al-Shabaab that has harassed, endangered, and expelled humanitarian groups. The U.S. has led the emergency response to the immediate crisis, including the State Department’s recent announcement of additional humanitarian assistance to Somalia and the White House's announcement of additional assistance for the greater Horn of Africa.
Full text of the letter is below.
August 17, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street Northwest
Washington DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We write to express our deep sorrow and concern about the famine in Somalia and the larger crisis in the Horn of Africa and to urge you to expand our nation’s leadership of the international response to this crisis. We have substantial Somali communities in our states and share our constituents’ deep concerns about the unthinkable human suffering that has resulted.
As you know, Somalia is the epicenter of a severe drought that has left more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa in need of emergency life-saving assistance. In Somalia, the drought has come on top of decades of political dysfunction, recurrent food shortages, and more recently, terror by al-Shabaab that has harassed, endangered, and expelled humanitarian groups. The United Nations recently declared a famine in five regions of southern Somalia, and more may follow. Tens of thousands have already died; many of these tragic victims are children, who are most vulnerable to malnutrition.
Thousands of Somalis are crossing into Ethiopia and Kenya each day, often walking in harsh conditions for over a week to get across the border. Up to half of the new arrivals in Ethiopia are suffering from acute malnutrition, and many children are dying along the way. The world must deliver as much assistance to these refugees as needed to ensure their survival.
More than three million people in Somalia remain in emergency need, and the worst suffering is concentrated in the southern part of the country, where al-Shabaab exerts de facto control. Al-Shabaab has prevented access for many international humanitarian organizations, making a bad situation even worse.
We appreciate all that your department and the Administration have been doing to lead efforts at establishing a longer-term sustainable humanitarian situation in Somalia. Similarly, the U.S. has been leading the emergency response to the immediate crisis, including your recent announcement of an additional $28 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia and the White House's announcement of an additional $105 for the Horn of Africa. The U.S. government’s expansion of the Office of Foreign Assets Control license should enable humanitarian organizations to partner with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to deliver aid and save lives in difficult conditions without being in conflict with U.S. laws and regulations.
The situation remains dire and threatens to turn into a massive humanitarian catastrophe. We’ve met with Somali constituents and humanitarian organizations in our states, and based on those discussions, we urge that in addition to assistance to refugees, you work to ensure that humanitarian assistance can be delivered quickly by humanitarian organizations wherever they can operate in southern Somalia.
That certainly includes the large parts of Mogadishu under Transitional Federal Government control. Beyond the capital, we urge you to work to find ways to get assistance delivered to the innocent people who are dying in large numbers. Highly respected humanitarian organizations are concerned that they are potentially subject to prosecution were they to work again in southern Somalia. We hope their efforts will be bolstered with the greater assurance you’ve provided that their good-faith efforts to deliver aid would not put them at undue risk of prosecution. Whether al-Shabaab will allow them access, or continue to make the situation worse by preventing such access, remains an open question.
Thank you for your leadership on this extremely urgent issue. If there is any way we can be of assistance, please contact us, or Jeff Lomonaco on Sen. Franken’s staff, at (202) 224-1043.
Al Franken Sherrod Brown
United States Senator United States Senator
Patty Murray Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator United States Senator