President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations called peace and security crises in Africa “a collective failure,” saddling the global community with an equal share of the blame for man-made conflicts and terrorist threats that endanger 20 million people.
“This is a crisis that should be leading every newscast and on the front page of every newspaper,” Nikki Haley said this week of famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
Yet while Haley, former governor of South Carolina, called the U.S. a partner to Africa in tackling these crises, the continent struggles to get and then maintain high-level commitments of assistance from other nations.
On July 8, the U.S. announced an additional $466 million in humanitarian assistance for famine countries, bringing 2017’s total aid to $1.4 billion. The UN made an appeal earlier this year for $4.4 billion to address the crisis, but as of the end of May, it was only 30 percent funded. A coalition of aid organizations, in conjunction with companies such as Google and Visa, is seeking donations from individuals in businesses to fill that gap.
Here are five of the crises world leaders face should they respond to Haley’s call and tackle a situation she said existed “not due to acts of God, but acts of man.”
Somalia has endured decades of conflict, driving millions of its citizens abroad in search of safety. The country’s fractured political landscape has crippled its ability to gain the upper hand against the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab. The terrorist organization has attacked aid workers, making it even more difficult to get help to those who need it most.
Somalia, on the eastern tip of the Horn of Africa, isn’t new to deadly famines with mass casualties ignored by the international community: A 2011 famine killed 258,000 people there because warnings of impending crisis were not heeded.
Somalia has a weak government and only a small host of other countries have a diplomatic presence there due to the security situation. After a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was downed in Somalia in 1993, Washington withdrew its troops and diplomats from the country. The current U.S. ambassador to Somalia sits in Nairobi, Kenya, although the U.S. pledged in 2015 to reopen a facility in Mogadishu.
Drought is the main cause of Somalia’s famine. It has left an estimated 1.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid in the Puntland and Somaliland regions of the country, according to Save the Children.
Although it only became a country in 2011, South Sudan’s short existence has been marred by political crisis and violence. A December 2013 disagreement between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar has spiraled into a conflict rife with ethnic tension. Numerous peace negotiations have failed to produce a deal that sticks. The U.S. — which helped create South Sudan — said Thursday the latest peace effort was the “last chance” for the country to revive a struggling peace agreement reached two years ago that has done little to stop the violence.
The security situation has made it difficult for aid to reach those in need. Humanitarian workers have been attacked multiple times, with seven killed in March in an attack on a vehicle clearly marked as belonging to a non-governmental organization. A 2016 attack on a humanitarian compound resulted in the rape of five foreign aid workers and the murder of their local colleague.
“The patience and generosity of humanitarians are being severely tested,” Haley said Wednesday. “Their efforts to lessen the suffering in South Sudan are being actively obstructed by the government and other parties.”
The conflict has caused more than 3.5 million people to flee their homes and has left tens of thousands dead. Because of an urgent response to the famine in South Sudan early this year, the country is no longer officially considered to be experiencing a famine. But there is danger the harsh conditions could return, with an estimated six million people in danger of facing food shortages this summer.
Terrorist group Boko Haram has contributed to instability in Nigeria, despite years-long government efforts to eradicate it. The 2014 kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from the Chibok region garnered international attention, but the issue has since faded from the spotlight. Some of the girls remain unaccounted for (although dozens of others have escaped). Boko Haram fighters continue to terrorize the population with suicide bombings, and sectarian violence claims civilian casualties.
Boko Haram violence has displaced 1.7 million people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. The nation has also experienced droughts and floods, leading to further instability, particularly in rural areas. The insurgency disrupts agricultural cycles and those displaced struggle with access to food and water.
The State Department’s 2016 Country Report on Terrorism identifies northeast Nigeria as one region where terrorist groups find safe haven in ungoverned territory. That precarious security situation prevents humanitarian aid from accessing people in need, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network estimates that people in the northeast are likely facing even more dire conditions than the rest of the country. The World Food Program estimates 4.7 million people in the region need emergency food assistance.
Democratic Republic of Congo
War in the Democratic Republic of Congo officially ended in 2002, but violence and instability remain. The UN has had a peacekeeping presence in the country since 1999, with its mandate continuously extended despite desire for a “clear exit strategy.” Over 22,000 forces remain in the country that is effectively in its third decade of conflict.
Congolese President Joseph Kabila was supposed to leave office last year but has refused to step down because he says the DRC can’t afford to hold elections. A report published Thursday by New York University found that Kabila — who’s been in office since 2001 — and his family own more than 80 companies and businesses in the DRC and abroad.
Recent violence has renewed fears that civil war could return to the country. Thousands of people have been killed, including children found with their limbs cut off and pregnant woman with their stomachs cut open. More than a million people have been displaced and the UN refugee agency said there is “no end in sight to civilian suffering.”
Haley condemned the country for its human rights record, decrying the DRC’s nomination for one of Africa’s seats on the Human Rights Council as “an inexcusable failure” of the continent’s ability to promote nations that respect and value human rights.
After the U.S. helped depose Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the country has remained largely lawless and become a safe haven for terrorists. The current conflict involves multiple governments, tribal groups and terrorist organizations all vying for control. Those conditions have made it a major port for migrants traversing the Mediterranean because smugglers can operate freely on the coast.
Libya is not experiencing a famine, but food insecurity is growing. The country’s harsh climate means even before conflict erupted in 2011, 80 percent of Libya’s food had to be imported. Violence has forced people from their homes and made obtaining food even more difficult.
Famine in other African nations could contribute to increased migrant flows through Libya.