October 2011


Students will:

  • Use news sources to explore the crisis in Somalia.
  • Consider a variety of factors exacerbating the famine.
  • Monitor the crisis for a month and weigh the international response.


Handout – Famine in Somalia

Handout – Monitoring the Famine in Somalia

Recommended Sources


Al Jazeera Inside Story: “Africa’s drought: Is weather or war to blame?”
(we recommend up to 12:10)

How did the events in Somalia in the 1990s dampen enthusiasm for U.S. humanitarian intervention? [Jarat Chopra – 2:34]


NPR Talk of the Nation: “Exacerbated by Conflict, Somalia’s Famine Persists”
(we recommend up to 5:30)


BBC: “Q&A East Africa hunger crisis”

Additional Resources

Pulitzer Center: The Not-Inevitable Crisis: Why 9 Million Are Hungry in East Africa

Al Jazeera: Horn of Africa Drought

The New York Times: Somalia
Note: Images of famine are sometimes graphic. You may want to review these sources beforehand to make sure they are appropriate for your students.

Discussing Somalia

Ask students what they know about Somalia. Have students heard anything in the news or from their families about the drought that is occurring there? What is al-Shabab? Why is there violence in Somalia? How is that conflict connected to the growing humanitarian crisis?

Researching the Crisis in Somalia

Inform students that the drought is also affecting communities in other countries in the region, but only in Somalia has the drought become a famine. There are a number of factors that have exacerbated the crisis in Somalia, and students will be exploring this complex issue by researching these factors in a variety of news sources.

Distribute “Famine in Somalia” to students. Have them work in pairs or groups to explore the news sources and fill in the chart. Each factor affects the crisis in a variety of ways. Encourage students to list as many ways as they can that each factor has contributed to the crisis.

Note: You may want to limit your students to the four recommended sources listed above, or you may want to allow them to search through the full list of resources to find the information they need to fill out their charts.

Considering the International Response

Have students report on what they found. What did students learn about the famine in Somalia? What other countries is this drought affecting? Which factor do students think has been the most important in causing the famine in Somalia? Which factors explain why the crisis is worse in Somalia than in other countries in the region? Did students find any additional factors described in any of the sources, for example poverty or lack of long-term development programs? Which sources did students find to be most informative? Least informative?

Why has the international community been slow to respond to the crisis in Somalia? What issues might make the international community reluctant to intervene in Somalia? What do students think the international community should do? What factors make international involvement difficult or problematic?

Following Somalia in the News
Distribute “Monitoring the Famine in Somalia.” Tell students that over the course of the next month they will be following this issue in the news and taking note of how the crisis evolves. Students should consult at least two or three news sources and write a short update about the crisis every week on Part I of the handout. At the end of the month, students should answer the questions listed in Part II.

What Should We Do?

At the end of the month, debrief with students. How has Somalia’s crisis evolved? Have conditions improved or worsened? What has the international community done? What do students think the international community should do? What are the challenges of international intervention? Have student views about the role of the international community changed in the last month?

Extra challenge

Encourage students to write letters to local representatives, members of Congress, or the school newspaper expressing their views on this topic. Push students to think of other ways they can get involved, for example by raising awareness in their communities or holding fundraisers to support groups working in Somalia.

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