The World Today for November 11, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

‘The Hungriest Place on Earth’

SOMALILAND

Photographer Misan Harriman was openly distressed after journeying to Somaliland to document how four years of drought – the worst in 40 years – has precipitated a food crisis in the region that is an independent part of Somalia.

“I saw tiny babies and children with swollen stomachs, peeling skin and incredibly thin limbs – some of the telltale signs of the deadliest form of malnutrition,” he wrote in Vogue’s UK edition.

Around 60,000 people in Somaliland are enduring famine while more than 1.3 million face acute hunger, according to Oxfam.

Describing Somaliland as the “hungriest place on Earth,” the Sydney Morning Herald added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated what was already becoming a problem. The war has disrupted food supply chains and hiked prices. Somalia imports 80 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

This small slice of East Africa has fallen far from its prior status as a bastion of peace and stability in an unstable, troubled region.

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, more than 30 years after Somalia earned its independence from Britain in 1960. As the Africa Report explained, the region has the “trappings” of a sovereign nation-state: a parliament, elections, an independent military, separate license plates and a currency, though US dollars are used widely. Somaliland has also long been more peaceful than Somalia, where security forces are fighting al-Shabab, an Islamic insurgency, and political instability has been the rule, not the exception.

Somalilander leaders, noting these conditions, have journeyed to Washington to press their case for independence and American recognition, Foreign Policy magazine noted.

Writing in Salon, Mohamoud Gaildon, a Somali-American medical physicist, charged that the American advocates who have encouraged this idea are imperialists seeking to carve up Somalia. Joshua Meservey at the conservative Heritage Foundation, on the other hand, defended Somaliland’s independence as an expression of self-determination.

But as hunger grows, the country appears to be losing its ability to make democratic decisions.

Somaliland’s election authorities in September recently postponed a presidential election scheduled for Nov. 13 to July 2023, Reuters reported. The announcement came after protests resulted in clashes with security forces that left five dead and around 100 people injured. Protesters suspected President Muse Bihi Abdi wanted to avoid voters and extend his term.

A week after the election authorities announced the change, Somaliland lawmakers extended Abdi’s term by two years, Voice of America wrote. Now it’s not clear whether Abdi will face a reelection poll next year even though one is scheduled.

The move has also thrown Somaliland’s hope of independence into doubt. As Bloomberg reported, a free and fair presidential vote was a key factor in the region securing international recognition as well as potential loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Abdi might have abandoned his people’s dreams and unity for the promise of more power. The hunger, meanwhile, goes on.

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