As drought and an ensuing humanitarian catastrophe tightens its grip on 10 million people in the Horn of Africa, regional authorities are making U-turns. Al-Shabab, the Islamist militant group that controls swaths of southern Somalia, is allowing back the international aid groups that it kicked out a few years ago after accusing them of being anti-Muslim and creating dependency. Now, with around 3,000 Somalis fleeing their ravaged nation each day, UNICEF has been given permission to drop five tonnes of food, medicine and water equipment into a parched town.
In Kenya, the Dadaab camp is overwhelmed by 375,000 refugees. Facing international criticism, the government opened the empty Ifo refugee camp, which was never settled because of fears it would lure more Somalis across the border. The crisis affecting Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia is due to widespread drought, combined with conflict and high food prices. Families have no choice but to make the perilous trek to Kenya’s camps. By then it is often too late for the most vulnerable. The death toll for children in Dadaab for the first four months of 2011 equalled that of the entire previous year.