Aid Boosted To Somalia; U.S. Mogadishu Vet Says He Would Return

Aug 9, 2011
Originally published on August 9, 2011 1:00 pm

Some 800 metric tons of food are on the way to East Africa, where more than 12 million people are suffering from a severe drought. The U.N. World Food Program is using nine airlifts to send high-energy biscuits to Kenya, where it will be distributed to famine victims.

The shipment is expected to be enough to feed 1.6 million people for one day. The United Nations says that 640,000 children in the Horn of Africa region are at risk of acute malnutrition.

As for the U.S. response, on Monday President Obama pledged to send an additional $105 million for famine relief efforts in the region. And Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, arrived in Kenya Monday with a group that will visit refugee camps.

And the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) offers ways to help famine victims.

CNN's Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta are in Dadaab, Kenya, where they described the scene at a large camp for Somali refugees:

It is hard to imagine, but dust and starvation are nearly everywhere you look, and the world's largest refugee camp is thick with misery on this night. The smell is a combination of the acrid sweetness associated with malnourishment, anxious sweat and diesel fuel.

The fuel is used to keep away the swarming flies. It stinks more than it repels.

And the AP reports that Kenya, which has been lauded for taking in nearly 500,000 refugees, is struggling to help the famine victims — and also to protect them from groups of marauding criminals:

Officials here say they are being overwhelmed by the influx of tens of thousands of Somali refugees, and can't stem the attacks. One 30-year-old woman who watched two of her five children die as they trekked through Somalia, was raped after reaching what she hoped would be the safety of Kenyan soil.

"I constantly ask myself, 'Would this have happened to you, or would you have lost your children if you had been in your country?" said the woman. "My mind always says: 'You ran away from a problem and ran into another.'"

The situation in Somalia troubles the lone survivor of one of the helicopters that was shot down in Mogadishu by a Somali warlord's militia in 1993. In an interview with the BBC, retired U.S. Army pilot Michael Durant says that he didn't agree with the U.S. decision to leave Somalia, which came shortly after the choppers were downed.

And when asked if he would consider returning to Somalia now — to fly in aid --Durant laughed and said, "You caught me off-guard with that one."

Then he said he would return, if it were up to him:

"You know that is something that as an individual I would absolutely be willing to do. However, I would have to factor in what my wife's thoughts on that are."

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