London, UK, September
17, 2011 – Most humanitarians see the dire situation in Somalia as the
worst possible combination of circumstances. War, poverty, displacement,
drought, famine - not to mention pirates and Islamist rebels who don’t
like foreign aid workers.
Somalia has the lot. Somalia is, well....Somalia (cue: deep sigh and
Years of anarchy since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991,
combined with frequent drought and rampant inflation, have turned
Somalia into one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
Back in the early 1990s, civil war and famine killed some 250,000
More recently, the rise of indigenous Islamist movements in southern
Somalia has rekindled fears the lawless territory might become a safe
haven for al Qaeda and other groups branded as terrorists.
To top it all, a severe drought since late last year has left 4 million
Somalis in need of food aid, with hundreds dying every day due to the
famine in the south, at least half of them children.
Just how much do 20 years of state failure and recurring disasters like
this cost, both in human and monetary terms?
A report from One Earth Future Foundation and the Center for American
Progress attempts to quantify the destruction and misery. “The cost of
Somalia’s ruin is nothing short of staggering,” it says.
It estimates - conservatively, it notes - that the international
community, including the Somali diaspora, has collectively spent just
over $55 billion responding to Somalia since 1991.
Here are some facts and figures from “Twenty years of collapse: The cost
of failure in Somalia”, which draws on a wide range of U.N. and other
Major financial costs to the international community since 1991. Total:
$55.3 billion, consisting of:
- Humanitarian and development aid - $13 billion
- Remittances - $11.2 billion
- Peacekeeping, military responses/aid, counter-terror and diplomacy -
- Piracy - $22 billion
- International crime and illicit financial flows - $2 billion
- Direct bilateral assistance to the government which disappeared in
2009 and 2010 (according to a confidential audit of the Somali
government) - 96 percent
Major human costs of Somalia since 1991:
- Deaths - 450,000 to 1.5 million
- Refugees - more than 800,000
- Internally displaced people - more than 1.5 million
- Average length of the term of a Somali prime minister since 2000 -
- Annual revenue of Islamist rebel group al Shabaab (U.N. estimate) -
$70 million-$100 million
- Difference in life expectancy between a citizen of Japan and Somalia -
- Average number of births per Somali woman - 6.3
- Odds that a Somali child will die before their fifth birthday - 1 in
“Somalia remains a tragic case study of the international community
getting it wrong repeatedly,” the report argues.
The U.S. government is heavily criticised for its “wilful disregard for
sensible diplomacy”, including propping up the regime of Siad Barre in
the 1980s and supporting a “disastrous” 2006 Ethiopian invasion.
“At a time when the fiscal climate in Washington is extraordinarily
difficult...it is all the more vital that we approach conflicts like
Somalia with sensible long-term strategies rather than knee-jerk
responses,” the report concludes. “The cost of any other approach is
simply too high.”
The full report can be downloaded from the Center for American Progress
website. AlertNet has a crisis briefing that explains the background to