Texto en Español
Fred Cuny was a disaster relief specialist who used his training in engineering to do humanitarian work. He worked in countries such as Biafra, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia. In March 1995, he disappeared in Chechnya and was never found. His life was featured on the PBS documentary program Frontline.
Most of the information contained herein is drawn from the Frontline documentary on Fred Cuny, the Cuny section of the PBS web site, and Professional Responsibility: Focusing on the Exemplary by Michael S. Pritchard of Western Michigan University.
You can find more information on these materials and other Cuny-related sources in sections 9 and 10.
It was 1992, and the country of Somalia was becoming a
full-fledged war zone. The "scorched earth" policies of the
warring clans in Somalia caused a famine. When relief workers
attempted to bring food in, one of the clans would burn it to
prevent it from falling into the hands of their enemies. The
U.S. indicated an interest in getting involved and aiding the
Fred Cuny studied the situation and decided the best
strategy would be to avoid working in Mogadishu, the capital
city. He wanted to create a "zone of tranquillity" away from
the capital. Cuny believed that it was best to stay away from
the cities because it was too difficult to give aid in such a
chaotic setting. However, the U.S. government decided to they
would try to solve the problem by landing in Mogadishu and
restoring order there. Cuny needed to decide whether or to
offer his expertise to the government in carrying out their
plan or continue campaigning for his own.
For Fred Cuny, it was an easy call. He felt the government's
plan was dangerous, so he wrote op-ed articles in many major
U.S. newspapers carefully spelling out his plans. But the U.S.
government ignored the disaster relief expert and went into
Mogadishu anyway. The expedition was a huge failure, with
several Americans being killed and the famine still going
strong after they left. It was not a happy situation for anyone
involved, but once again Cuny demonstrated the depth of his
understanding of relief efforts and what is needed to make them
Pictures of Somalia