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Don't Send Dollars to Somalia

In the US, kids are holding bake sales and setting up lemonade stands to try to raise money for the starving children of Somalia that they see on the TV news every night. But one of Africa's largest charities-- Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders or MSF) is telling people not to do that, because the money and food is NOT reaching the people who need it, since the reason for this famine is not drought, it's WAR.

Once starving Somalis make it across the border into the tens of thousands of refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, donated food can reach them. MSF aid worker Dr. Unni Karunakara condemns organizations and the media for "glossing over" the reality in order to convince people that simply giving money for food is the answer.

In the September 9-15 edition of the Guardian Weekly, Tracy McVeigh quotes him as saying, "We may have to live with the reality that we may never be able to reach the communities most in need of help. "The Somali people have been living in a country at war, with no government, for 20 years, with several long periods of hardship, of famine and drought. This harvest failure is just what has tipped them over the edge this time, a catastrophe made worse."

He says charities needed to start treating the public "like adults" because "There is a con, there is an unrealistic expectation being peddled that you give your (money) and suddenly those people are going to have food to eat. Well, no. We need that (money, yes (and) we will spend it with integrity. But people need to understand the reality of the challenges in delivering that aid. We don't have the right to hide it from people--we have a responsibility to engage the public with the truth."

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