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Never again

In 2011 and 2012, famine ravaged Somalia and killed 260,000 people, half of whom were under the age of six. It was the fifth food crisis to strike the Horn of Africa in the past three decades. “Every time in the aftermath, there’s a lot of talk about how we have to do something so that this never happens again,” says Daniel Maxwell, the director of the Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance program at the Friedman School’s Feinstein International Center and an expert in food security. “There’s some action, but that tails off after a few years, and five or six years later you have another one of these big crises.”

Maxwell is trying to end this pattern and reduce the impact of future famines. With the help of a $291,678 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a $366,000 grant from USAID, he is researching the response to the 2011–2012 famine and its effect on the region.

The brunt of the crisis occurred in areas controlled by Al Shabab, a Somali militant group affiliated with Al Qaeda. The organization wouldn’t allow the international community to provide aid to those places, and Maxwell hopes to learn about the extent of the suffering there and how the affected populations coped. He’s also researching the impact of nontraditional humanitarian actors, including Middle Eastern NGOs and Red Crescent societies, on the response. They played a significant role, unlike in previous crises, when emergency responses were led almost entirely by the United Nations and NGOs based in Europe and Western nations.

Maxwell hopes his research will strengthen efforts to make the countries in the Horn of Africa less vulnerable to the next crisis and reduce the suffering in the region. “The question is, how can we make use of what we’ve learned from this crisis to prevent or better prepare for subsequent crises?” he says.

This research is just one example of how the Feinstein International Center’s work helps communities suffering from famine, war, human-rights abuses, and other crises. To learn how you can support the center’s vital projects around the globe, contact Cindy Briggs Tobin, senior director of development and alumni relations, at 617.636.0962 or