West & Central Africa

Islamist terrorism causes starvation for 20 million people

The world is facing ‘a critical point in history’ in the form of the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council.

O’Brien told council members that “more than 20 million people across four countries (Somalia, Yamen, South Sudan and Nigeria) face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death.”

He argued that the common denominator for all the regions on the brink of famine is that they “are conflict zones”.

These conflict zones have one thing in common – Muslims trying to impose their own form of political and extremist Islam.

Hundreds of thousands of people, in these four countries have been killed and it must be noted that a large percentage of the victims of the Islamists, in these counties, especially in countries like Nigeria, South Sudan and to some extent, Somalia, are Christians.

Yemen, the UN says, has the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with “two-thirds of the population, or nearly 19 million people”, have been impacted. The country was plunged into war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government.

O’Brien said, “They are hungry and sick and they need peace so that they can return home,”

In South Sudan, the conflict is described as a ‘political rivalry between the young country’s two leaders’ by the United Nations. The UN resists mentioning the religious impact. But this ‘rivalry’ plunged the area into violence more than three years ago, according to the Emergency Co-ordinator.

He declared: “The famine in the country is man-made. Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine – as are those not intervening to make the violence stop,” stressed Mr. O’Brien, “Aid workers have been killed, humanitarian compounds and supplies have been attacked, looted and occupied by armed actors,” He said. But despite the Islamic government-imposed obstacles to reaching those in need (Christian communities), aid workers managed to reach more than 5 million people last year with assistance.

A spokesman for Barnabas Aid which recently launched an Easter appeal for East Africa, said that in addition to crises across, Somalia, Yamen, South Sudan and Nigeria, there were calamitous food shortages in parts of Uganda and Kenya. “The food crisis in large parts of sub-Saharan Africa is rooted as much in conflict as it is in natural disasters. Islamic extremism and the existence of terror groups throughout the region, together with inter-tribal conflicts, are common factors in these conflicts.”

Challiss McDonough, regional spokeswoman for the World Food Programme, said the current crisis, “Is more like an
overwhelming of the humanitarian system: 20 million people are facing potential famine. A year ago I would have said that was unimaginable.”

In 2011, Somalia experienced a famine that killed 260,000 people. By the time the international community designated the crisis a famine, more than half the victims already had starved to death.

“The current indicators mirror the tragic picture of 2011,” O’Brien warned. “To be clear, we can avert a famine.”

However the help is not forth coming as it should and what is “extremely worrying is that more than one million children under the age of five are at the risk of acute malnourishment.” The report says.

The ineffectiveness of the government and the insurgency by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda linked jihadi group, have been the main cause strife and starvation in Somalia.

In North Eastern Nigeria three states — Borno, Adamawa and Yobe — are severely food insecure because of violence and instability by Boko Haram terrorists. More than 8.5 million people in those three areas need aid.

“The situation for people in each country is dire, and without a major international response, the situation will get worse,” O’Brien concluded. “It is all preventable,” added O’Brien. “It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes.”

The Nigerian government has made military inroads, reclaiming communites previously overtaken by the Islamic terror group but hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes or trapped in other Boko Haram controlled areas.

The question is whether countries and politician have the political will to address the problems boldly. One public analyst said: “The Muslim Community cannot play double standards in the face of these realities. Islam may be a ‘peaceful’ religion, according to many Muslims but can we see it in the actions of the adherents?”