As ever, the Economist is covering parts of the world in depth that you rarely even see in the news briefs section elsewhere.  This time it’s the Horn of Africa, which the Economist says is on “the path to ruin” in an article that illustrates how a devastating humanitarian crisis has descended into an even more dire situation that is worrisome on all sorts of levels.

The Horn of Africa, consisting of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia in East Africa, is on the edge of a precipice right now that results from a combination of political instability, extreme hunger and uncontrolled population increases (over half the population is under 15).  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the hungry region has been experiencing a severe drought.  Indeed, the environmental situation is dire: Only 5% of the natural habitat remains and experts predict that the Horn will become wholly unsustainable if temperatures rise one or two degrees as predicted due to global warming.  And now, enter al Qaeda, who seeks to exploit the Horn’s fragility by encouraging radicalism and imposing its own order.

The combination of humanitarian, environmental and security concerns that have mixed together in the Horn of Africa is horrifying, but no coincidence.  Reading this article reminds me of why the United States must not miss opportunities to promote sustainable development, especially in unstable parts of the world, by providing aid, supporting population control and stopping environmental degredation.  Otherwise, we may be faced with situations that are not only morally outrageous but also threatening to our security.

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