Overseas assistance is torn between relief and development: do we feed the hungry or teach them how to feed themselves?

The road from mogadishu to Halba Camp begins as a strip of macadam laid incongruously across the vacant Somalian desert. A flat, sere landscape is interrupted by occasional stands of acacia trees and giant red anthills that jut abruptly upward like impressionistic sand castles. Few animals cross the road. Giraffes and elephants were killed off long ago. Now only the ugly and the fleet remain: cartoonish warthogs with sinister tusks and a peculiar habit of running with tails held vertically erect, and the diminutive dik-diks, antelope measuring only 14 inches high.

Along this road ten Marabou storks, four to five feet tall, were standing in a characteristic cross-legged posture. Unlike the beautiful, elegant creatures of legends, the Marabou is more of a vulture poorly disguised as a stork. Its plumage is indeed a lush turquoise, displayed in the stork’s odd practice of facing the sun with both wings spread, like a fully-robed pope blessing the masses. But the head attached to that hunchbacked trunk of feathers is all vulture: red, wrinkled, bug-eyed, and bald, with a protruding bill designed to rip apart carrion.

These Marabou had gathered around a pool of water maybe 20 feet in diameter. We stopped the Land Cruiser and walked toward the water, where the fetid stench of death hung heavy. The evaporating pool contained two kinds of fish: a nondescript silvery variety and shiny black catfish—thousands of fish in all, piled together so densely that the top layer was completely out of the water. Thousands more, dead and dying, lined the muddy sides of the pool. As the land-locked fish near the edges scrabbled ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.