It is tempting to look at the stories of famine from the Horn of Africa — a region experiencing its worst drought in 60 years — and think nothing can be done.

Cycles of drought and famine repeat in East Africa, perpetuated by conflict, rising food prices and dysfunctional governments, leaving an outsider wondering if it’s even worth trying.

It is.

In southern Somalia, where the UN declared a famine on July 20, millions are at risk, with scores dying daily. The famine is expected to spread, with drought also gripping Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The UN estimates at least 10 million people in this corner of East Africa need immediate food assistance.

Among the most vulnerable are 2 million young children. As the images of emaciated toddlers stream out, their ribs protruding over concave bellies, it’s time to act, even if the next crisis is just around the corner.

The real solutions to avoiding famine — developing a functioning government and agricultural sector — are elusive. This is particularly true in southern Somalia, where al-Shabab, an Islamist insurgent group, is largely blamed for the famine. It’s preventing aid workers from entering and imprisoning starving Somalis who are trying to flee.

But that is no reason to turn away.

— Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 3

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