The Envoy
  • A woman feeds her malnourished child at a paediatric ward in Banadir hospital in Somalia's capital Mogadishu August 7, 2011. The United Nations says about 3.6 million people are now at risk of starvation in Somalia and about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa region, including in Ethiopia and Kenya. This famine has occurred due to drought, conflict and a lack of food aid.  REUTERS/Omar Faruk (SOMALIA - Tags: DISASTER SOCIETY HEALTH)A woman feeds her malnourished child at a paediatric ward in Banadir hospital in Somalia's capital Mogadishu August 7, 2011. The United Nations says about 3.6 million people are now at risk of starvation in Somalia and about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa region, including in Ethiopia and Kenya. This famine has occurred due to drought, conflict and a lack of food aid. REUTERS/Omar Faruk (SOMALIA - Tags: DISASTER SOCIETY HEALTH)
    Somalia
    is experiencing the worst famine the world has witnessed in a generation, the result of the region's worst drought in 60 years. The UN estimates that a quarter of the Somali population is now displaced—some 1.5 million people—and more than 10 million are in immediate need of food assistance or face starvation.

    The demands are urgent, and getting adequate assistance to the region in time has been tough.

    The Lookout asked experts on the area and the crisis for answers—and how you can help today.

    Q: How did such a severe famine evolve ?

    A: Three factors have caused the Somalia famine to be so severe, aid experts say: severe drought, severe lack of governance and severe poverty.

    First, the Horn of Africa has experienced two seasons of unprecedented drought conditions. Second, there's been a total breakdown in governance in Somalia over the course of a civil war dating back more than 20 years. Third, people are already extremely impoverished. And the three circumstances are

    Read More »from Crisis in Somalia: Why is the famine so severe and aid so difficult? How can you help?
  • (AP)Thailand has elected its first female prime minister. And though Yingluck Shinawatra is a businesswoman who was previously little known in Thai political circles, it turns out she has a familial political pedigree: her big brother Thaksin Shinawatra just happened to be Thailand's premier, until he was ousted in a 2006 coup.

    Yingluck, 44, didn't just win: her opposition Peau Thai political party achieved something of a landslide, picking up 265 out of 500 seats in Thailand's lower house of parliament.

    With her camera-ready good looks and poise, Yingluck won over Thai voters, and defied "skeptics wary of her novelty value with a slick election campaign," Agence France Press reports.

    But though Yingluck has vowed to try to reconcile the segments of the Thai electorate still divided over her brother's legacy, it's not clear she can escape his shadow. It will likely be particularly hard for her to shake his controversial reputation for corruption among the Thai political elite, which drove him into exile.

    Read More »from New Thai Prime Minister is sister of controversial ousted ruler
  • In this image posted on the Internet by Shaam News Network, showing what they purport to be a military tank on the streets of the city of Hama, Syria, on the "third day of Ramadan", Wednesday Aug. 3, 2011. (SHAMSNN/AP)The Obama administration on Thursday stepped up condemnation of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said more than 2,000 people have been killed in a government crackdown on four months of anti-government unrest.

    "We think to date, the government is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 people of all ages, and the United States has worked very hard to corral and focus international opinion to take steps toward a unified response to the atrocities that are occurring," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a news conference Thursday with visiting Canadian foreign minister John Baird.

    "We are seized of the concerns posed by what is happening in Syria," Clinton said, vowing the U.S. would continue to try to marshal a "much louder, more effective chorus of voices" to pressure the Assad regime.

    "It has become very clear around the world that Assad's actions place Syria and the region on a very dangerous path," White House spokesman Jay Carney told journalists at the White House press briefing Thursday, adding: "Assad is on his way out ... We all need to be thinking about the day after Assad, because Syria's 23 million citizens already are."

    The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday issued a presidential statement condemning the "widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities." And emerging powers on the council--India, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa, which have previously expressed reluctance to authorize another Libya-style military intervention in Syria--are sending a delegation to Damascus to investigate human rights concerns, diplomats said.

    Yet even as international condemnation of the Assad regime builds daily and economic and diplomatic efforts increase, the endgame in Syria is anything but clear. What would it take to topple Assad?

    Syria analysts say regime change in the country will be a protracted and likely violent affair--beyond the current bloodshed. They assessed that given the country's sectarian composition and the deep allegiances to the Assad regime by the mostly Alawite commanders of Syria's security forces -- it's unlikely that Assad would be ousted quickly. And what might follow is a great unknown.

    "The key here is to drive a wedge between the regime and those who still have a vested interest in the regime but are fearful of what might come afterwards," said Robert Danin, a former State Department Middle East official, in a call with journalists Thursday arranged by the Council on Foreign Relations.

    "The administration position [toward Assad] is now hardening substantially," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Envoy in an interview Thursday. In particular, Tabler said, the Syrian regime gets about one third of its revenues from oil exports to Europe; thus targeted energy sanctions could be quite effective.

    But Tabler acknowledged that while measures such as energy sanctions could put a real squeeze on Damascus, the ethnic composition of Assad's praetorian guard complicates the calculations of those seeking vulnerabilities in the regime.

    Read More »from Clinton: Syria government responsible for 2,000 deaths

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