Today I attended the Aspen Institute’s round-table discussion on the 7 Billion: Conversations that Matter with a talk entitled “Lessons from the Crisis in Somalia.” With Somalia being the 8th highest birth rate in the world, and the global population expecting to reach the seven billion mark this year, Mary Robinson, Walid Abderlkarim and Geoff Dablko discussed the lessons we can learn from the challenges of Somalia.
“Can’t get Somalia out of my skin,” is what former President of Ireland and chair of the Global Leaders Council, Mary Robinson said upon her return to the troubling famine in Somalia last summer. “Who would of declared in the 21st century famine in Africa would be a black-mark for all of us,” Robinson stated. With the largest refugee camp in Dabaab, Kenya— the horrifying conflict in Somalia has developed an average of 1,500 hungry and tired refugees to pour in daily. In Robinson’s opinion, it’s crucial to link the acute hunger in the Horn of Africa through education and reasonable health care. The sudden urgency of famine is one that needs to be addressed. The problem with Somalia according to Robinson is the lack of proper governance for over 19 years, and since then poverty, health, and women’s issues have been rising.
Walid Abdelkrim, Principal Officer and Team Leader for Somalia and Support to the African Union, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, emphasized the significance of learning from the past in preventing future crises in Somalia. Abdelkrim believes the root cause of famine is not simply the absence of food, but the people, security, knowledge, and bad governance. “In order for Somalia to move forward, women need to be involved in the relief efforts and gain the responsibility; if this does not happen the cycle will continue,” he stated. “Agricultural reforms, good governance and strengthening of infrastructure and health systems are vital, but they will not stand if women are not given the chance to be central players in trade, pricing, accounting, education and health.”
Geoff Dabelko, Director, Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center voiced his opinion about the need of the international community to be more effective and going beyond just recognizing and implementing strategies, but discussing environmental health and security issues. He stated that the high child and maternal mortality rates in conjunction with a high youth population would make facing this crisis more difficult. Dabelko’s solution to the crisis in Somalia is to start engaging in conversations to achieve peace-building implementation in Somalia. “Peace in Somalia will lead to democratic elections and governance which in turn will aid in the issues of mortality, food security, and health care” Dabelko stated.
The main message from today’s round-table discussion is to keep on enforcing the importance of the famine crisis and implement peace-building strategies; more importantly supporting women’s role in ending the crisis in Somalia.