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US must step up effort to stop famine in Somalia

The news coming out of Somalia is getting worse by the day. Tens of thousands of people have already died due to the famine over the last few months, according to the United Nations, and now officials are warning that 750,000 people could die over the next four months if aid efforts are not dramatically ramped up. That would put the tragedy unfolding in Somalia on the same level as the genocide in Rwanda.

To stop this catastrophe, the UN is asking for a little more than $1 billion. While that may sound like a lot of money, it really isn’t. As of September 2, the appeal had been 59 percent funded, which means that less than $450 million is still needed to meet their target.

The US could easily fully fund the humanitarian appeal for Somalia and then some. It’s just a matter of priorities. To name just one possible tradeoff, the US is currently spending about $2 billion per week to prosecute the war in Afghanistan. That means we blow through $450 million in less than 35 hours in that conflict. So the choices are pretty clear. Do we keep a war that most Americans oppose going for another couple days or do we fully fund the effort to stop 750,000 people in Africa from dying of starvation?