Friday, October 2, 2009

Is it Powerful or Problematic to Withhold Aid to Nations?

Nations in turmoil are often those states most dependant on aid. Somalia, Haiti, Ethiopia all receive aid from the US and UN, whether providing humanitarian relief with food and medicine or money to fund development.

These "fragile states" are, as the title suggests, politically unstable. Often plagued by terrorism, corruption and widespread health concerns, nations that receive aid are constantly under the scrutiny of international observers and the aid-donor nations. But not surprisingly, the political chaos that prompts the giving foreign aid, also brings about the choice to withhold aid...

Yesterday the United States postponed its aid donation for Somalia. In a nation where 1 in 5 children are malnourished and famine in the central region of the country appears to be imminent, the decision to withhold all funds to the nation is the last thing needed in Somalia. As the primary donor state for UN aid funding in Somalia, the US holds crucial power over the life of the nation.

Somalia remains in a state of political danger. The nation has not had a lasting central government since 1991 and recent reports from the UN continue to note that there is no rule of law in Mogadishu. While President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, elected in 2009, is believed to be the best hope for the stabilization of Somalia, Sheik Sharif and his government are deeply reliant on US weapons and aid to continue to improve the nation.

And the president of Somalia has a great deal to do in the nation. Their are serious issues regarding the prevalence of pirates, terrorists and gang lords in the nation. Not to mention problems of basic public health ranging from severely limited potable water to lack of infectious disease treatment.

The US is withholding aid because they believe that the current funds are getting into the hands of terrorist rather than development projects and civilians.

It's true that the Shabab terrorist group is a powerful and expanding force in the nation, increasingly connecting to the Al Qaeda network of terrorism.

Yet cutting off aid leaves Somalia an even greater victim to the powers of terrorism. Many researchers and scholars have noted that the the extreme poverty, lack of education and resources in places like Somalia, Afghanistan and other fragile states, decades prior to fundamentalist empowerment, led to the rise in of jihadist terrorism in the nations. By cutting aid and further entrenching the nation in poverty, the US does little to combat the longevity of terrorism in Somalia.

Clearly aid distribution needs to be reformed but not at the expense of civilian's health and security. While weapons should not get into the hands of Shabab members, the promised medical services and food distribution can not be stressed by the US' pandering on the issue of aid allocation. Did we just now realize that Somalia may be a corrupted nation controlled by terror? Didn't we know that 6 months ago? 6 years ago? There is a great deal for the Somali people to do to in socially and politically restrengthening their nation but if the State Department believes that cutting off aid will bring the internal reform and improvement needed to assure the US that all of its aid is being properly directed, they will find themselves terribly mistaken.

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