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My Foreign Policy column this week suggests that in the Twenty-First Century, famines can only occur with the active engagement of local leadership – taking away food from producers and/or denying access to agencies delivering emergency relief.  In Somalia, the leadership that is denying access is al-Shabab – the group in control of the areas of the country where famine has already begun.

I don’t mean to let donors off the hook.  They should have responded earlier and with greater generosity to a situation that has developed over months, to ensure that the lack of outside assistance would never be the binding constraint to preventing death by starvation.  But at the moment that isn’t the biggest constraint. Al-Shabab is the biggest constraint.  And its leaders should be held to account.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.