Report Documents Survival Struggle Against Somalia's Drought

by Kathy Jones on  July 17, 2011 at 6:46 PM Lifestyle News
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Somalis describe the extreme drought threatening famine and death on a massive scale in the Horn of Africa where dying children, hunger and overcrowded camps are a common sight.
 Report Documents Survival Struggle Against Somalia's Drought
Report Documents Survival Struggle Against Somalia's Drought

"My child is starving but I cannot feed him," said Kafia Ali, cradling her son at the Korane camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu, crowded with some 3,700 families seeking food and shelter.

"I fled from the Southern Gedo region in order to save my two children from the killer drought."

Thousands of Somalis have fled into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia seeking aid in recent weeks, in the wake of the Horn of Africa's worst drought in decades that has left millions of people facing starvation.

But many too have stayed behind in a desperate struggle for survival.

And, in a worrying sign of how serious the situation is, many Somalis have been forced to risk the dangers of travelling from rural areas into the war-torn capital in search of food.

A father of three spoke of the painful journey, saying he left home after his wife died of hunger.

"My wife was a very good person, who cared too much for our three children and me," said Mohamed Aden, a 62-year old man from the Dinsor area of Somalia.

"But when she become ill and hungry we could not help her, because the family has no food to offer."

Many of those arriving in Mogadishu are farmers, who said they had abandoned their homes after their crops withered in the drought, and then their livestock died.

"Once I was an owner of cows, goats and few camels," Aden added. "But today I am a beggar without a wife who is in a camp of displaced people."

Malnutrition rates for children under five in Somalia are the world's highest, the international Red Cross has warned, as the country struggles with persistent violence and failed rains.

Almost 500,000 children in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are suffering from life-threatening severe malnutrition, according to the UN children's fund (UNICEF).

But those fleeing into Mogadishu in the hope of support say they have found little respite, staying in makeshift shelters.

"The life in the camp is not any better that we have at home," Ali added.

Meanwhile rains in Mogadishu have added to the misery of those looking for help: too little and too late for much of their livestock, and weakening further those people living outside without shelter.

"When you are hungry, cold is a killer, and the people here are starving and helpless," said Batula Moalim Ahmed, an elderly mother, calling for plastic sheeting for shelter, as well as for food and medicine.

The flood of refugees has added pressure on camps with basic sanitation and a lack of toilets.

"We can't throw our waste openly in the camp, as that creates an unhealthy environment," said Abduilkadir Mohamed.

"Though we are poor, we are still human beings and deserve respect," he added.

Somalia's transitional government has provided some aid to people, and set up a committee to try to tackle the crisis.

"The hospital donated meat, so my children will have soup for tonight, and I will share," said a mother, carrying about half a kilo of goat's meat.

The UN World Food Programme feeds some 300,000 people each month in Mogadishu, with special food supplied for malnourished children and hospital patients.

But local aid workers said there is a need for more support on the ground, and for foreigners not to stay within the capital's airport alone, under the protection of African Union troops.

Islamist rebels who control southern Somalia expelled foreign aid groups two years ago but have recently relented, with the Al Qaeda-linked Shebab asking for assistance to combat the ravages caused by drought.

"The service of the foreign aid workers is vital to bring more aid to Somalia," a Somali aid worker said, who asked not to be named.

"Local humanitarians can simply sympathize -- we can do nothing."

Source: AFP

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