East Africa Famine: Media Ignores Deadly Crisis to Focus on Politics

August 3, 2011  |  

By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Did you know that 800,000 children are in danger of dying of starvation in the coming weeks if aid is not delivered to the Horn of Africa immediately? If you didn’t, it’s not your fault. The famine destroying the lives of east Africans is just now making it into the mainstream papers. Our nation’s media has been so focused on the debt ceiling debacle and the phone hacking scandal that pleas by aid organizations for funds have gone unheard. In fact, only one American news organization, ABC News, has a journalist on the ground in the area — now dubbed the Triangle of Death by aid workers stunned by the catastrophic suffering. Yahoo News reports:

ABC claims that it is the only American news network to have a reporter in Mogadishu, Somalia—the epicenter of Africa’s deadly and increasingly violent famine.

But that may soon change.

On Monday, the New York Times ran a heartbreakingly powerful image taken by photographer Tyler Hicks of a starving Somalian child on its cover, above-the-fold.


Until now, the media—the Times included—has been distracted by phone hacking and debt ceiling coverage to focus on the crisis there.

“The famine in Africa has had to compete with the wrangling over the debt ceiling, the mobile phone hacking scandals in Britain, the killings in Norway and, in Africa itself, the birth of a new country, the Republic of South Sudan,” Stephanie Strom writes.

Aid workers have been warning the international community for some time that the ongoing war in the region combined with a worsening drought were destined to cause the massive food crisis now affecting 12 million individuals. It is a pathetic excuse to blame events of recent weeks for letting what some have called a man-made disaster progress to the point of costing almost one million innocent lives.

But more important than placing blame is focusing on what we can do now.

Organizations like British relief group Oxfam are stressing more than ever the urgent need for the public to donate funds — and for governments to follow through on their pledges. In addition, experts have underscored that organizations like the U.N. must work with local groups on the strategic delivery of support in war torn areas to side-step violent rebels.

It is unclear whether those seeking to ameliorate the devastation are being heard. Despite continuing requests for action, governments have been delayed in responding to the suffering bringing millions the brink of extinction.

In one startling example, The Washington Post revealed that recently “a donor conference [hosted by the African Union] to raise money for Somalia famine victims has been postponed for at least two weeks.” The reason for the postponement? Poor planning.

The region has suffered enough from the poor planning of world leaders, who keep pushing preventing the imminent deaths of millions to the bottom of their to-do lists. Many children in Somalia and Kenya do not have two weeks to live. The time is literally now or never, as the U.N. reports that the under-five death rate in Kenya is sharply rising.

In the midst of addressing our debt ceiling debate, President Obama admitted that this tragedy “hasn’t gotten as much attention here in the United States as it deserves.” If the American news media is culpable for failing to provide the necessary awareness, it is more important than ever for concerned citizens to make a grass roots efforts to assist the starving.

The New York Times has (finally) created a list of organizations working to provide aid to the Horn of Africa. It is important for us all to use this list to give what we can, in addition to pressuring world leaders to work intelligently to protect aid workers and refugees traveling through dangerous territories.

Rape is among the many dangers faced by Somalian women walking to refugee camps through areas studded with militants, and living on the outskirts of camps out of fear for their safety within them. The hell people are going through there is evident. The innocent are oppressed from all sides. Our insensitivity to their pain must end, regardless of the slow movements of those in power.

You have the power now to make a difference. Donate money, send emails to elected officials. Through our collective action, we might be able to prevent further calamity.

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  • soulcrusher

    The first thing I did was feel terrible for these people. Then I thought. Why are they starving? Could it be the way the country is run? The way America is being run we won’t be far from this either. People need to wake up. You are letting this country go down the same road. Get involved.

  • mary

    This is so sad. You people are so busy fighting amongst yourselves, similar to our “evolved” government, that you missing the point that there are children, foreign and domestic, starving. If you can actually try and compare the debt-ceiling issue with starvation, you need a reality check. It’s obvious you’ve never gone hungry. Social security is a luxery, food is a necessity. Get over yourself.

  • paul

    It is yes extremely sad. It has been that way for over a decade. I have seen a hundred rallies to help Africa during my life. They are pretty much all politically driven, used as vehicles to capture hearts and minds. But with the way Africa is (constant war) not much of that aid ever makes it to those that need it. As well there is more money in Africa then anywhere in the world. All resources that could propel African governments and help there own people. Like if America truly can force other nations. Force Uganda to support Africa. They have the raw material. Our gold rush ended a long time ago. Time for Africa to step into the new age without a hand out. There is no Africa until the continent tries on its own. It is not a place for Egypt to look away. Rich oil nations like Iran in the same world neighborhood could also try to help. But no, let us blame it on America. America is guilty for all world injustice until Americans understand that we are not lords or the universe nor are the people of the world serfs

  • te-Rene

    That picture brought tears to my eyes…we are livivng in the last days people..wake up!

  • rodriguez_agnes

    I had to give…these are children for pete sake. #SAVETHEBABIES

  • Grahm

    Wait a min though. What is the African Gov. doing to help their own people? Oh yeah that's right. How is it that we could provide aid when its obvious that our government is having issues with debt? What is happening in Africa is atrocious. It is terribly sad that it has come to this point but it has ALWAYS been this way no matter HOW MUCH AID we give. Should we help these countries? SURE but you know what their government needs to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. There are so many families HERE that have problems, that can't make ends meet, who are unemployed because they can't find work and NO im not talking about people who are just lazy. I am talking about QUALIFIED individuals who have been steadily trying to keep on top of things but still have to wait until the economy turns around. So honestly, to say that the US needs to turn thier attention on home, yeah may sound insensitive but its TRUE. In looking at that picture it is TERRIBLE to see a child or person in that condition for that matter but THIS HAS GONE ON FOR YEARS. THIS IS NOT NEW.

  • Katrina

    Absoultley disgraceful

  • Ronald

    Not trying to be rude or anything because I love Africa, but in this article you say the media is focused on the debt ceiling more than the Somalian crisis. We should put US troubles first in our book.

    • hmfgh

      your absolutely Correct…People can be so Ignorant in the real history of things….y

    • ucantbeserious

      And what have u done "too real", to help starving children in Africa? b/c I know i have and will continue to do so honestly. Pple are so hypocritical, they say America needs to stay out of other countries affairs, when we do we are demons. You really need to do some research about how much aid the U.S. gives to other countries. Shouldnt Africa and its politician be help accountable for some of this, or is it the fault of the U.S. like everything is? Im surprised no one has blamed George Bush for this yet lol

  • ga1

    Absolutely atrocious.

  • Mila

    wow!that picture is heartbreaking!You can’t blame our media for not addressing these issues earlier.We have collectively had our own problems to deal with as a country.If we did not resolve the issue with our debt,then one day we just may be a 3rd world country ourselves.It is so sad what is going on with Somalia,but there are children here in America who aren’t eating every day,families with outac in the summer,heat in the winter,clothes,shoes,running water *etc.Our problem is we are always trying to fix someone else’s problems and we are in no position to do so.Anytime where our gov.wants to choose between paying our government workers or healthcare for our elderly;than that should show you we are in no position at this point.I am going to pray for a miracle for this country.I hope they get the help they desperately need,even if WE are unable to help.

  • Steelcitychick

    That’s all well and good, but doesn’t America need to worry about getting it’s house in order before running to help others? Why is it everytime someone needs help, America has to be the one with the check book!?

    I’m not trying to be insensitive, but how are we supposed to feed their family when ours aint had a meal, so to speak!

    • Jeffro

      I agree with you!! We need to take care of america first and foremost!! We are falling apart…

    • Ohplease

      Have you seen any kids running the streets looking like the one in the picture? Kids on Welfare in the U.S are fatter than kids with wealthy parents. People in the U.S complain about making $14 dollars an hour. Yes, you are being insensitive.

    • TheSenator

      Oh, yes sir/mam, I think you are unresponsive (if not insensitive) to what dying people in The Horn need. In the USA, no one dies of starvation, is it not, so to speak???

      Is there any american who is as thin as someone in The Horn? Is there any american who is rushed to the ER due to malnourishment?

      Aren't the americans growing obese?


  • CriticXtreme

    This is to Rick Ross and other who need to flaunt large amounts of money to the media. His a cause worth giving money too instead of spending money on useless things. Hey I know it's your scrilla but there's a thing called karma.