Even as the rain failed in Somalia for two years in a row, as the crops and cattle died, and famine set in, al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization with links to al-Qaida in the Horn of Africa, made a conscious decision to ban relief agencies or impose restrictive rules on their operations.
This year, the drought and hunger have reached disastrous levels, and tens of thousands of people have died across the region. Amnesty International reports that, nonetheless, al-Shabaab militants demanded that destitute farmers "depend on God" instead of accepting food aid from "infidels" at foreign relief agencies. Some 2.2 million Somalis who are at risk of dying from starvation are in territory controlled by al-Shabaab.
"Al-Shabaab has been particularly brutal, even barbaric, to the people under their control, even before this famine had so devastated the Somali people," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Al-Shabaab has imposed the worst kind of punishments for what they consider to be violations of their particularly perverted, distorted view of Islam.
"Somalia has been in turmoil and living with violence for a very long time now. . . . But what we’ve seen in the last several years is the rise of al-Shabaab, which proudly claims some affinity with al-Qaida, which tries to work with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. And so this then becomes . . . . not just a tragedy on the ground in Somalia, but a threat to not only the United States but the rest of the world," said Secretary Clinton.
The U.S. is providing approximately 580 million dollars to meet ongoing, urgent humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa. This includes approximately 92 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to Somalia, which is helping to feed 1.7 million people and treat tens of thousands of severely malnourished Somalis countrywide. Our assistance also provides voucher and cash-for-work programs, health care, clean water, sanitation, and other services.
The U.S. has also been encouraged by the recent engagement of the Organization of Islamic Countries and the African Union in calling on their member states to increase their humanitarian assistance giving.
"Still, a great deal depends on whether al-Shabaab is willing to let international assistance be delivered," said Secretary Clinton. "And so I once again urge al-Shabaab to heed the calls not only of the international community, including the Arab League, but of the cries of their own people, and allow the secure delivery of relief to all those who are afflicted."