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Somalia's Image Deficit: Helping or Hurting Aid?

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SOMALIA FAMINE
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He says...

In case you haven't noticed, the war-torn state of Somalia has a PR problem... not one of those warm and fuzzy nations, thought fondly of by most.

With a weak, corrupt, UN-backed central government, large areas controlled by pro-al Qaeda Islamist rebels, and ports, home to pirates who terrorize innocents on the high seas, many in the civilized world find it a hard place to warm up too.

And let's not forget those 'Black Hawk Down' images from October '93, the tragic result of a UN effort to restore order to the stricken land, and allow the world to feed its starving people. Those disturbing pictures on the eleven o'clock news of the naked bodies of downed U.S. chopper pilots, dragged through the streets of Mogadishu... assaulted by mobs and eventually set ablaze.

But, no matter, here we go again.

Famine has returned to the Horn of Africa and Somalis are starving, tens of thousands dropping like flies and, as expected, the Western nations are kicking in. It's what we do, regardless of politics or how despicable those in need may be. We're a caring, compassionate lot, blessed with an obligation to alleviate suffering... despite how despised we may be by those with their hands out.

For our part, we in the Great White North are coughing up $50 million relief dollars, in addition to Ottawa matching donations from individual Canucks. This, by the way, (puff up that chest) makes Canada the largest per-capita donor to the relief effort!

Wow! That should score us some big points on the world stage... a humungous hug from the UN!

But let's not forget our new BFF's in communist China and those good folk in the Arab and Islamic states. I'm sure like always, we can count on them to do their part... look for some BIG coin!

Sarcasm aside, we all realize, of course, that throwing millions at the Somalias of this world is like slapping a band-aid on a cancer patient. The only real hope is radical surgery... a costly, painful operation that at least for now, no-one is willing to perform.

But, hey! Cut that cheque. As the saying goes... "If it feels good, do it!"

She Says...

There are pictures that galvanized the world. We couldn't look at them without being moved and feeling a little guilty that just by the chance of birth we happened to be here in a land of plenty. Once again the pictures of little children starving in Somalia break your heart. But this time there are other pictures that come to mind too.

Warlords, pirates, radical Islamists and the dead American soldier dragged through the streets with ordinary Somali's cheering and kicking him then torching his body.

We spoke with Nick Moyer co-ordinator of the Humanitarian Coalition an umbrella group of aid organizations...Care, Oxfam, Plan, and Save the Children. They are pleading with us again to help Somalia.

Our guest did admit that Somalia has "an image deficit". I guess that means it's hard to put together a sympathetic story for the region. Many will remember when the world was there to help and just how badly it turned out. You can hear our discussion on our podcast for July 21.

A child is dying from starvation every six minutes in drought-hit Somalia according to aid workers. In 10 years it wouldn't surprise me if they are asking the world to respond again. Here at home we have aboriginals fleeing their homes because of wildfires. They left with the clothes on their backs. They too need help!

We've been told that summertime pursuits like our fascination with Will and Kate (who raise millions for charity), or fretting over the end of Harry Potter for that matter is something to feel ashamed of when there are people starving.

Of course the famine is more important but insulting our more mundane interests is hardly the way to encourage philanthropy.

Some of the harsh realities of life in Somalia can turn you into a cynic but to look into the eyes of those poor little children makes you just want to get them out of there. Give them a life, some opportunity. That would be a picture to cherish.

The debate continues. Is Canada giving enough? Take part in our poll at www.themotts.ca/

Paul and Carol Mott can be heard discussing the issues weekdays from 11 until noon streamed through their website. Download the Motts App for your Blackberry & listen anytime!

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