As Somali Child Malnutrition Soars, U.S. Spent Twice As Much On Military Aid Than On USAID There In FY2009

Today, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) released new findings that show that child malnutrition is reaching new highs in Somalia, as one in 10 children in some parts of the country are now at risk of starving to death, with the country’s levels of malnutrition being the highest in the world:

Levels of malnutrition have reached a new peak and are currently the highest in the world, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today. In some parts of Somalia, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition has almost doubled since March. […] “A dramatic increase in cases of malnutrition can be observed even in the Bay and Lower Shabelle regions, usually described as the country’s breadbaskets, where nearly 11 per cent of children under five suffer from severe acute malnutrition,” said Andrea Heath, the ICRC’s economic-security coordinator for Somalia.

While yet another humanitarian crisis unfolds in Somalia, it is important to note America’s uneven policy towards the East African country. Since the early 1990s, the U.S. has poured billions of aid dollars into Somalia. But in recent years this assistance has been increasingly geared towards military assistance to Somalia’s dysfunctional interim government, regional militaries, and the African Union peacekeeping operation.

In FY2009 — the year for which data is most readily available — the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) spent $123 million on food assistance and an additional $7.3 million on disaster assistance to Somalis. Meanwhile, the U.S. spent $246 million on “Peacekeeping Operations” the same year, which enables the U.S. to train foreign militaries participating in the Mogadishu-based African Union peacekeeping mission, known as AMISOM. USAID illustrated this funding disparity with the following graph:

It’s important to note that these numbers represent a conservative estimate that doesn’t include covert funding for CIA or JSOC operations within the country, and it also does not include U.S. military assistance to Somalia’s feeble and poorly trained Transitional Federal Government (TFG) security forces or to regional militaries — such as Kenya and Ethiopia — that must address the growing threat posed by Somalia.


To be sure, the United States has been the top humanitarian assistance contributor, but without a broader and more comprehensive approach, we can expect this imbalance to continue to grow as counterterrorism operations expand.