Somalia

Somaila: Struggling to survive

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THE SITUATION

In Somalia, drought, conflict and displacement have combined to create one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

Between 1 and 1.5 million Somalis have been displaced within the country by fighting and hunger. An additional 560,000 refugees are estimated to have fled the country.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 123,000 people have been displaced in Somalia since July 2009 alone.

Rainfall in some parts of Somalia has yet to bring relief for those suffering from malnutrition and hunger, while aid agencies are facing security threats and budgetary shortfalls that restrict their ability to provide sufficient aid.

YEARS OF WAR AND LAWLESSNESS

Somalia has been without a permanent central government since 1991, when the government was overthrown by opposing clans, which then descended into warfare. In 2004, a transitional government was formed, but the country has remained in a state of virtual anarchy as various factions, including warlords and Islamist insurgents, fight the government and each other for control.

Following the creation of a new transitional unity government in January 2009, Ethiopian forces, which had been supporting the interim government, withdrew from the country. Instability increased, and in May 2009, radical militias launched an attack on the capital of Mogadishu, forcing more than 210,000 people to flee their homes.

Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. The conflict restricts the free movement of humanitarian aid workers, 20 of whom had been killed and 17 abducted as of August 2008, according to UNHCR.

DROUGHT EXACERBATES THE CRISIS

Drought resulting from consecutive seasons of poor rains has added to the country's instability. Somalia has not faced a food crisis this severe since the famine of 1992. UNICEF estimates that more than 3.6 million people in Somalia need food aid, and the World Food Program reports that one in five children suffer from acute malnutrition.

Somali refugees face similar drought conditions in other countries across the Horn of Africa, where more than 23 million people are in need of food aid.

FOOD CRISIS CONTINUES DESPITE RECENT RAINS

While seasonal rains have arrived in some areas, the hunger crisis is still far from over. It will take time for reduced livestock herds to replenish and for parched lands to regenerate. In arid and semi-arid regions where the land is infertile, the population depends on imported food. Meanwhile, food prices remain high due to inflation.

THREATS TO AID DELIVERY

Somali pirates have become a major threat to international shipping in the area, delaying or preventing the transport of cargo. Since aid agencies deliver the majority of their food aid and other humanitarian assistance by sea, piracy is a serious concern.

The provision of aid is also threatened by underfunding. A spokesperson for the World Food Program said the agency is $167 million short for its food aid operations across Somalia between December 2009 and May 2010.

DISPLACED PEOPLE HIT ESPECIALLY HARD

Internally displaced Somalis are suffering not only from hunger, but also from limited access to basic services. They are especially vulnerable to communicable disease outbreaks because of their makeshift living conditions and lack of adequate drinking water and sanitation.

In late October, the World Health Organization reported rumored outbreaks of acute diarrhea in South Central Somalia, where there are a high number of internally displaced people (IDP's).