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How to save lives in Somalia

Sudarsan Raghavan’s July 26 front-page article, “Somalis flee famine along ‘roads of death,’ ” helped raise awareness of the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Unfortunately, it didn’t fully get to the heart of the issue.

The crisis results from the worst drought in at least a generation combined with the most complex access challenges that relief organizations have seen in years. If the United States is to contribute to a timely response, two important steps must be taken.

First, Al-Shabab, the brutal armed group wreaking havoc in much of Somalia, needs to acknowledge the severity of the crisis, stop denying aid to dying people and allow aid groups to have unfettered access to them. Second, the Obama administration needs to address the legal roadblocks faced by U.S.-funded relief groups by allowing for waivers or exemptions from the 2008 terrorist designation and related presidential executive order.

If these steps are not taken, millions of lives will hang in the balance while some of the most capable organizations have to sit on the sidelines.

Sarah Margon, Washington

The writer is associate director of the sustainable security and peacebuilding initiative at the Center for American Progress.

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Sudarsan Raghavan’s interviews with mothers who fear their hungry children are near death were heartbreaking. Let’s hope they spur more action on behalf of more than 10 million people affected by East Africa’s worst drought in 60 years.  

In a particularly cruel irony, as this tragedy continued to unfold, the House of Representatives voted last week to drastically cut foreign aid. Preventing the United States from reaching hungry children and others caught in crisis and poverty will do little to balance the U.S. budget, since foreign aid accounts for just over 1 percent of it. Such cuts will, however, mean the United States can reach fewer mothers watching their children die, do less to prevent future crises from reaching this scale and forfeit its global standing at a time when America’s ability to lead internationally appears increasingly compromised.  

Congress needs to invest in foreign aid — not cut it. In the Horn of Africa, the United States needs to remain engaged through both financial and diplomatic support. The lives of millions of poor men, women and children depend on it.  

Charles F. MacCormack, Easton, Conn.

The writer is president and chief executive of Save the Children.

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