Somalia Drought Yields Famine, Terror Recruits

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Africa's worst drought in 60 years is causing massive food shortages and famine in central and southern parts of Somalia.

The country has been wracked by years of little rain and decades of conflict, creating a massive humanitarian crisis threatening 11 million people.

Somali Habiba Dhahir, the mother of a malnourished child, is making a desperate plea for help.

"We are dying in the absence of immediate humanitarian assistance," she said. "Where is the U.N.? Where is the Muslim world? Please come to our aid! We are suffering a lot,so the world should take action to save our lives."

Al Shabaab

The U.S. has agreed to send an additional $28 million in emergency aid. That's on top of the 431 million in emergency assistance already given this year.

But these new funds will not be under U.S. restrictions put in place in 2009. Those limits were implemented to ensure that food and money don't fall into the hands of militant groups linked to al Qaeda.

The most dangerous Islamic group in Somalia is al Shabaab.

"The concern policy makers have is that the aid organizations that are forced to pay taxes to Shabaab or are forced to use convoy drivers who are giving kick-backs to Shabaab, is something that bolsters the organization," Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a terrorism expert with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told CBN News.

The United Nations World Food Programme says Somalia is the most dangerous country in the world to work in, with the nation being plagued by fighting, frequent kidnappings, killings, and attacks on aid convoys. Fourteen relief workers have died in past few years.

Two years ago, Muslim rebels prevented aid from reaching those in need.

"They are re-thinking that idea because you have 5,000 Somalis a week leaving Shabaab-controlled territory and going into Ethiopia. You have 110,000 refugees from Somalia in Ethiopia right now. And you have over 300,000 Somali refugees in Kenya," Gartenstein-Ross explained.

"One of al Shabaab's recruiting tools and tools to give them strength is say they're able to govern better than competitor, and the fact that the drought is driving so many people has given lie to that claim," he added.

Camp Fertile Recruiting Ground

The famine has already killed tens of thousands of Somalis, and many more have been forced to flee their homeland.

Refugee camps in nearby Kenya are getting thousands of new refugees each week -- which make it a breeding ground for terrorists.

CBN News Sr. Reporter George Thomas traveled to Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp in 2007.

"There are numerous cases of terror attacks on the African continent that have origins in the Dadaab camp because this has been a fertile ground for radical Islamists looking for new recruits," Thomas said.

The U.N. has already received nearly $1 billion in aid from donors, including $500 million from the World Bank

But the U.N. is asking for a billion more from donor countries and private companies to help fight the famine.

"What the United Nations is doing is trying to increase the level of aid that's going on there. At the moment, we are providing some assistance, but it's not enough and it's clearly not enough," Mark Bowden, the United Nations humanitarian ambassador to Somalia, told CBN News.

Meanwhile, Islamic militants deny there's even a famine. And they dispute claims that people are dying in the county's inaccessible interior where aid agencies have been denied access.

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CBN News
Tracy Winborn

Tracy Winborn

CBN News Producer

Tracy Winborn produces for CBN News' Newswatch program - a daily 30-minute newscast seen throughout the U.S.   Tracy also travels with CBN to produce from the field - having worked on stories like the Lakeland Revival, American Idol, and the 2008 McCain election party.