This paper examines the causes for the delay in the humanitarian response to the famine in Somalia in 2011. The international community failed to respond to early warnings with actions that could have halted the spread of food insecurity and malnutrition. Using the case study of Somalia, this paper analyzes a variety of factors that could have contributed to the delayed response. The results of the case study indicate that the key factors were: donor fatigue and a lack of political interest, mismanagement by the United Nations and humanitarian organizations, and a lack of media attention. Alternative explanations, such as a lack of access and security concerns, and counter-terrorism legislation, are unworkable as causes of the delay primarily because these conditions continued to exist when donors did ultimately respond to the famine. This paper recommends that donors and humanitarian organizations work to better understand the benefits of early action.
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