Human Journey

Famine in Somalia

Image from The World iPad app by National Geographic


The United Nations has declared a famine in southern Somalia, reports NPR, with tens of thousands dead and millions more in the Horn of Africa at risk. Al Shabaab militants have worsened the situation by blocking humanitarian aid. How did Somalia become a failed state, and are we facing a perpetual global food crisis? Revisit National Geographic magazine articles for some answers.

In Shattered Somalia (Sept. 2009), Robert Draper reports “This land is bred for trouble. Its nearly 250,000 square miles are, for the most part, deadly dry. Somalia’s inhabitants have engaged in a constant competition for its scarce resources–water and pasturage–since antiquity.” He describes the causes of the violence and anarchy gripping the country and meets 18-year old Mohammed, a fisherman who spends his afternoons chewing qat in an abandoned lighthouse overlooking once-spectacular Mogadishu, and who can’t remember a time when life was good. Pascal Maitre photographs residents living in the midst of chaos, and a sidebar, Failing Nations, discusses why things fall apart.

“For most of the past decade, the world has been consuming more food than it has been producing,” reports Joel K. Bourne, Jr., in The Global Food Crisis (June 2009). Bourne reports that food production isn’t keeping pace with population growth, and climate change is projected to further impede agricultural output. Can the world double food production by mid-century, when our population is expected to hit nine billion? Find out what the experts think, and view photos illustrating the crisis by John Stanmeyer.

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