Somalia famine has killed '29,000 children'
Claim by US officials follows declaration of three new famine zones by UN and warning that more areas are vulnerable.
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2011 02:03
Separately, the UN has declared that three new regions in Somalia are famine zones, making a total of five regions affected by famine thus far in the Horn of Africa country. The UN had said last month two regions were suffering from famine.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN's food arm, has said that famine is likely to spread across all regions of Somalia's south in the next four to six weeks.
Famine, as defined by the UN, refers to situations when at least 20 per cent of households face food shortages so severe that they are unable to cope with it and more than two people out of 10 000 people die daily.
Additionally, famine conditions are likely to persist until December, FAO said. Across Somalia, 3.7 million people are in crisis out of a population of 7.5 million, the UN says.
Al Jazeera's Peter Greste said that it was not just about getting food to Somalia but rather about getting nutritious food to the people suffering from famine.
"There is a real nutrition problem. They can get basic maize meal in here but that's not enough. There has to be nutritious food and that's simply not arriving," said Greste.
In need of assistance
The UN says 3.2 million are in need of immediate, life-saving assistance.
About 450,000 people live in Somalia's famine zones, according to Grainne Moloney, chief technical adviser for the UN's Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit at FAO-Somalia.
Somalia is suffering its worst drought in 60 years. Getting aid to the country has been difficult because al-Shabab fighters control much of the country's most desperate areas.
"Despite increased attention in recent weeks, current humanitarian response remains inadequate, due in part to ongoing access restrictions and difficulties in scaling up emergency assistance programmes, as well as funding gaps," the UN's Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit said.
Speaking on Thursday, Jacob Kellenberger, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said: "Somalia is what you could call a typical ICRC context.
"It is an armed conflict, compounded by a very serious drought. It is an area where people are already weakened since long years."
The ICRC has called upon donor nations to double its Somalia budget so it could help feed the more than a million people hit by famine in al-Shabab-controlled areas.
"Given the very serious, extremely worrying situation in the area, we came to the conclusion we had to increase very substantially our budget, which means our activities," Kellenberger said.
Earlier on Wednesday, an African Union official said a donor conference to raise money for Somalia famine victims had been postponed for at least two weeks.
A conference had been scheduled for August 9 to bring together African leaders and international organisations to address the drought crisis.
However, Valerie Vencatachellum, a senior AU policy adviser, said the conference had not been scheduled with enough advance notice.
Vencatachellum said it would be delayed at least two weeks so heads of state could attend.
Wafula Wamunyinyi, the deputy special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia's (AMISOM), told Greste: "The African Union has not taken long. It has ... taken measures to ensure there is delivery of aid to the people who are displaced."
He said: "We're trying as far as possible to ensure that the delivery [of aid] reaches the people; that Mogadishu is kept secure; it is made conducive for the delivery [of aid] by the international actors to reach the people."
Referring to al-Shabab's presence, Wamunyinyi said: "If [Mogadishu] is not made secure, even the delivery of humanitarian aid will not be possible."
The UN said the prevalence of acute malnutrition and rates of crude mortality surpassed the famine thresholds in areas of Middle Shabelle, the Afgoye corridor refugee settlement and internally displaced communities in Mogadishu.
The Horn of Africa is suffering a devastating drought that has been compounded by conflict in Somalia, bad governance and rising food prices.
Tens of thousands of people have already died, and tens of thousands more have fled Somalia in hoping to find food aid at refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Famine's devastation: 4 dead children, 1 family
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press – 1 day ago
Somali mother sends children back to famine as camps overflow
By Aaron Maasho
DOLO ADO, Ethiopia | Sat Aug 6, 2011 4:55am EDT
(Reuters) - When Somali mother Eblah Sheikh Aden gathered her seven children and set off walking for Ethiopia to find food, she never imagined she would end up sending some of her brood back into the heart of famine.
But that's just what the 35-year-old did to four of them when she realized they were not going to get fed in time at one of the Horn of Africa's overflowing refugee camps -- swelled by a deadly mixture of drought, war and bored donors.
"They were extremely sick and there wasn't food here," she told Reuters in the Kobe Camp in Ethiopia. "I couldn't watch them die and had to make a decision."
It took Eblah two days to walk to the camp but another nine days for her to be registered to stay, such are the numbers of sick and hungry streaming in.
Now that she has managed to register her family, she says she hopes her husband will bring the four children back to the camp soon.
The United Nations says about 3.6 million people are now at risk of starvation in Somalia and about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa region, including in Ethiopia and Kenya.
When trucks loaded up with food descend on the sprawling Kobe complex they leave both a swirl of dust and a trail of people in their wake, as dozens of refugees jostle for space to grab that day's rations.
This week, as aid workers and police scattered a crowd to maintain order, 68-year-old Hasano Abderahman cast a lonely and confused figure amid the boisterous hungry, scurrying with a worried look on his face past queues, tents and shacks trying to find somewhere to bury his baby.
"We had taken Addo to the clinic but he never recovered," said Hasano, who had fled southern Somalia with his wife and his one month-old son. "I'm now looking for space to bury him," he said, nearly an hour after Addo died from severe malnutrition.
One aid worker told Reuters the fate of Addo was common in the area's refugee camps, and said that the majority of children were suffering from severe malnutrition.
"The mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. It's very alarming," he said. The figures are even more alarming among those dwelling in the scrubs awaiting registration for several days, he added.
U.N. report: Al-Shabaab is raising millions illegally in Somalia
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
August 5, 2011 -- Updated 2314 GMT (0714 HKT)
Al-Shabab rebels withdraw from Somali capital
Islamist fighters pull back overnight from Mogadishu, as country remains gripped by famine.
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2011 06:23
Islamist rebel fighters are pulling out of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, government and rebel spokesmen said.
Abdirahman Omar Osman, a government spokesman, said on Saturday that al-Shabab was retreating from the city, calling it a "golden victory for the Somali people".
He said government forces have begun deploying cautiously in the pockets of the city previously under al-Shabab control.
The government is urging city residents who fled their homes to return, promising the military will spare no effort in securing their areas.
Ali Mohamed Rage, an al-Shabab spokesman, told a local radio station that the withdrawal was aimed to enable a counter-attack, saying there would be no pull out from other regions of southern Somalia.
Al Jazeera's Peter Greste, reporting from Mogadishu, said that al-Shabab "insist that this is not a retreat but an adjustmet of tactics and they will not abandon Mogadishu".
"It sounds like they are planning to continue fighting as a guerrilla force," our correspondent said. "They've lost fighters from abroad, finances and political support, so the nature of this fight is changing rather dramatically."
The extent of the withdrawal or what it meant was not immediately clear, but Mogadishu residents reported on Saturday al-Shabab fighters leaving their positions overnight in the city.
Witnesses said convoys of al-Shabab vehicles - open-top 4x4s mounted with machine guns - headed south from Mogadishu towards the al-Shabaab-controlled town of Baidoa, 250km southwest of the capital.
The UN has declared a famine in five areas of Somalia, which has had no functioning government for 20 years.
Al-Shabab, which controls much of the south of the country - where the famine is most severe - says the UN is exaggerating the humanitarian crisis and has banned most aid groups from operating there.
But al-Shabab has been unable to stem the flow of tens of thousands of hungry people moving out of their areas of control in search of food.
Fighting over aid
On Friday, at least seven Somalis, among them refugees, were killed in a firefight in Mogadishu after troops and residents looted vehicles carrying food meant for famine victims, witnesses say.
The witnessess said government troops fired shots and fought among themselves as they looted maize and oil in the Somali capital.
One witness said he saw a soldier killed and dozens of refugees wounded at Badbaado camp, home to about 30,000 refugees.
"At least 10 people died and 15 others were wounded," Aden Kusow, himself a refugee, told the Reuters news agency from Badbaado camp.
"Seven of those died in the camp. The other three died outside as they fled. Most of those who died are refugees."
About 100,000 refugees have reached Mogadishu in the last two months, hoping to escape the brunt of the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in decades.
News of the firefight came as Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, called for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Somalia.
Murky world of Somalia's Islamist insurgents
Some of the Islamist al-Shabaab group denies a famine is taking place in Somalia and are trying to stop people fleeing the areas it controls
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 4 August 2011 12.41 BST
An appeal by a senior UN official, Augustine Mahiga, for all Somalis inside and outside the country to work together in the face of a growing famine is unlikely to cut much ice with hardline elements of al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgents.
A report by Associated Press from Mogadishu provides a grim picture of how some militants are dealing with those trying to flee areas under their control, which also happened to be the first regions declared to be in famine by the UN last month.
Al-Shabaab deserters, some of whom are child soldiers, described how the militants are trying to stop people from leaving. Some men are being killed or are told that their women and children will be killed if they leave. Some members of al-Shabaab deny a famine is taking place, and fear that if people leave its strongholds in southern Somalia, its pool of conscripts and informal tax base will shrink.
Yet UN experts believe that while hardliners within al-Shabaab reject dialogue and compromise, other elements appear to be pragmatic and ready for political engagement. In a report in March, a UN monitoring group on Somalia (pdf) described al-Shabaab as an umbrella for jihadists, clan militias, business interests and foreign fighters.
Founded by former members of al-Iltihad al-Islami, a militant group active between 1991 and 1997, al-Shabaab came to public notice when it desecrated a former Italian cemetery in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, in 2005 and established a base there. It became the militant wing of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which briefly established a modicum of stability until driven out by Ethiopian forces in 2007.
Since then, al-Shabaab has been waging a campaign against the weak transitional federal government, which relies on a small African Union force, Amisom, rather than its own forces, which are racked by infighting, to keep it in power. It is within this volatile mix that aid agencies have to operate to deal with a famine that has now spread to five areas of Somalia, with al-Shabaab representing the most severe challenge.
The group consists of a core force of fewer than 2,500 Somalis and several hundred foreign fighters, backed by a large number of local clan militias that are not readily available for operations outside their home areas, and irregular fighters who are paid for specific operations. Its key figures are Ahmed Abdi aw Mohamud "Godane", also known as Mukhtar Abdirahman abu Zubeyr, the group's supreme leader, Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee'aad "al-Afghani", the regional governor of Kismayo, and Ali Mohamud Raghe also known as Ali Dheere, the group's spokesman.
Despite its small number, al-Shabaab's forces are nimble and can be concentrated across long distances at short notice. In August last year, it launched its "Ramadan" offensive involving 2,500 to 5,000 fighters with the goal of capturing the presidential compound in Mogadishu. The offensive included a suicide attack on the Muna hotel, killing more than 30 people.
Al-Shabaab forces were eventually repulsed with the help of 2,000 Ugandan troops, and UN experts believe that the group faltered because of its over-reliance on child soldiers, who could not stand up to sustained attacks from professional armed forces. Despite the military deadlock before the famine, and signs of divisions within al-Shabaab, the group is in rude financial health, amassing between $70m and $100m a year through duties and fees levied at airports and seaports, taxes on goods and services, and taxes in kind on domestic produce, according to the UN report.
The UN monitoring group says al-Shabaab's tax system is far more sophisticated and comprehensive than that of any other Somali authority. The group's most important source of revenue comes from its control of the port of Kismayo, which with the ports of Marka and Baraawe generates between $35m and $50m a year. Al-Shabaab also receives financial support from Eritrea, which considers the transitional federal government a stooge of Ethiopia, its implacable foe.
A worrying development for Somali's neighbours is al-Shabaab's growing influence in the region. In July last year, it mounted co-ordinated suicide bombings in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, killing 79 people, a move seen as retaliation for the presence of Ugandan troops in Somalia. The UN monitoring group also describes networks in Kenya linked to al-Shabaab that recruit and raise money for the insurgency. At first these networks were to be found among the ethnic Somali community, but these have broadened since 2009 to include other Kenyans.
Somali refugees 'fast' as drought continues
For Somalis struggling with famine, the fasting month of Ramadan means very little change.
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2011 21:29
Somali refugees: No food to break Ramadan fast
Somali women fleeing famine preyed on by rapists
By KATHARINE HOURELD | AP
Published: Jul 31, 2011 20:17 Updated: Jul 31, 2011 20:17
No quick fix to Horn of Africa's refugee crisis
By Haru Mutasa in
on Sat, 07/30/2011 - 20:15.
In Pictures: Somalis flee to Ethiopia
Somali refugees forced to flee drought are continuing their lives in camps across the border in Ethiopia.
Peter Greste Last Modified: 28 Jul 2011 11:42
Mayor Rybak: Minneapolis Is Proud Home to Complex Somali Community with Many American Success Stories
While Rep. King’s hearing focuses on “radicalization,” Somalis in Minneapolis strive to succeed and give back
July 27, 2011 (MINNEAPOLIS) — As U.S. Representative Peter King today holds another hearing in Washington, D.C. on “radicalization” in Muslim communities in America that is focused on the Somali-American community, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak issued the following statement:
“When Al-Shabaab tries to recruit our youth here to fight their battles there — and sadly, sometimes succeeds in doing so — we take it very seriously: indeed, Minneapolis’ large and vibrant Somali community has been bravely dealing with this problem head-on for years, and I fully support their efforts to do so. But Minneapolis is proud to be home to a complex, many-sided Somali community that has many American success stories to tell, stories of which everyone can be proud.
“Minneapolis is home to Mohamed Jama, Said Barre and Kafiya Ahmed, all young people who have interned in my office through Minneapolis’ STEP-UP jobs program. They are just a few of the scores of Somali youth who have gained meaningful employment through STEP-UP and are mapping out their own paths to success. Mohamed tells me he’s going to move into my office when he becomes mayor someday, and I don’t doubt it for a second.
“Minneapolis is home to Sadia Abdi, an entrepreneur whose fantastic hot sauces are now available at farmers’ markets and groceries across Minneapolis — and whose business is growing fast. Sadia grew up in Somalia and came to Minneapolis via a refugee camp, where she gave birth to her children. She has never stopped turning her American Dream into reality. I’m proud that the City of Minneapolis has supported her business through low-interest loans, including the Alternative Financing Program that is specially designed to help Muslim entrepreneurs, a majority of them women, and has helped leverage private investment that has created or retained over 120 jobs.
“Minneapolis is home to Hussein Samatar, the director of the African Development Center, which helps immigrant entrepreneurs and teaches financial literacy. Since January of this year, Hussein has also been the first Somali-American elected official anywhere in America, serving our community on the Minneapolis School Board. Hussein came to America as a trained economist speaking four languages, taught himself English, got an M.B.A. and has become a strong leader not just in the Somali community, but for all of Minneapolis.
“And Minneapolis is home to the exciting new initiative Neighbors for Nations, a partnership between the Somali community and the internationally-respected American Refugee Committee, for whom Minneapolis is also home. Neighbors for Nations harnesses the community’s desire not only to alleviate suffering in Somalia, but to contribute to building a sustainable future for that country.
“Youth striving for education and good careers, entrepreneurs striving for success, community members striving to give back: these deeply American stories unfold every day in Minneapolis’ Somali community.
“Yes, the community faces tough challenges, including the recruitment of young men for violence and the famine in Somalia right now: it is working hard to address them, and all Minnesotans and all Americans should support them as they do so. But we cannot allow even the most serious challenges to obscure the community’s many contributions and successes. As mayor, I’m proud that Somalis call Minneapolis home.”
In US, Somalis rally to send help for famine back home; former refugees remember own misery
By Associated Press, Published: July 27
MINNEAPOLIS — Mohamed Hassan gets emotional when he hears about the famine devastating Somalia, recalling his own months-long walk from Mogadishu to Kenya two decades ago as a teenager fleeing the civil war.
Now Hassan and other Somalis here are digging deep to help.
“I’ve lived through starvations, hunger. I’ve lived in a refugee camp,” Hassan said. “Because of my relationship to the people of Somalia back home, but also because of past experiences, I feel the pain. I cannot afford to sit back and watch people go through these experiences.”
From Facebook campaigns to car washes and concerts to local collection sites, Minnesota’s Somali community — the nation’s largest at an estimated 25,000 people — is raising tens of thousands of dollars to help the starving masses.
Though an overall total isn’t known, Somalis have helped raised roughly $100,000 for the American Refugee Committee, including $47,000 at a single event last week. Another group, Amoud Foundation, reported raising $94,000 from the Twin Cities in less than two weeks.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen an emergency like this where the diaspora is at the center of the response,” said Daniel Wordsworth, the president and chief executive of American Refugee Committee. “They are all taking a lead ... We don’t have to convince the Somalis to care. They care more than we ever will.”
But Minnesota Somalis are taking precautions. The state has been the center of a long-running federal investigation into the recruiting of Americans to join al-Shabab, a terror group responsible for much of the violence in Somalia. As part of that investigation, two Minnesota women were accused last summer of soliciting money and clothes for refugees in Somalia but steering the money instead to al-Shabab.
To guard against that, Somalis are carefully partnering with or donating to long-established relief organizations.
Before donating, people “have to think twice,” said Hassan Mohamud, the imam at Islamic Da’wah Center in St. Paul and an organizer of relief efforts. “Everybody wants to pay and everyone is generous to pay, but they want to make sure they won’t be in trouble if they give this.”
“The community is very careful,” said Safia Yasin Farah, who started a Facebook page, Somalis Without Borders for Drought Relief. “We don’t want to have anything to do with al-Shabab. We just wish they would go away.”
After the Minnesota women were arrested, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota came up with tips for charitable giving. Spokeswoman Jeanne Cooney said there is no safe list of nonprofits that are free of terror ties, but the Office of Foreign Assets Control maintains a list of groups that are designated as terror organizations. While that list is not all-inclusive, Cooney said, “We urge people to peruse that list before they give or make contributions.”
She said the government doesn’t recommend one group over another, but there are some, such as ARC, that have been carefully scrutinized and seen as ethical. Still, it’s up to the donor to make sure a group is legitimate.
Wordsworth said ARC began working with the Somali community two years ago In April they announced a partnership called Neighbors for Nations, which gave Somalis a safe way to send humanitarian aid back home.
Now, he said, ARC and American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa have a joint team in Mogadishu that is providing food baskets and items like blankets to thousands who have flocked to the capital city for relief.
The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million people in East Africa are affected by the drought, with 3.7 million in Somalia among the worst-hit because of civil war there. Somalia’s prolonged drought devolved into famine in part because neither the Somali government nor many aid agencies can fully operate in areas controlled by al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab.
The U.N. has said it will airlift emergency rations later this week in an effort to try and reach at least 175,000 of the 2.2 million Somalis who have not been helped yet.
The diaspora in Minnesota is doing what it can. Sade Hashi simply threw open the event center of his Safari Restaurant for free to anyone who wanted to meet about the drought. Hashi said it was the least he could do: He remembers fleeing Somalia due to the civil war and waiting in line for water.
“Now that we live here, we don’t forget that,” he said. “We are trying to save a life.”
Farah’s Facebook page, which lists organizations where people can donate funds, has followers across the globe. She supports groups that have workers on the ground outside Mogadishu, because she says access to aid is key. She has been promoting Amoud Foundation, a Texas-based group that is setting up feeding centers around Somalia.
The group has raised roughly $94,000 in less than two weeks from the Twin Cities alone. They have received additional pledges for donations from Memphis, Tenn., Chicago, the Washington D.C. area and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said Mohamoud Egal, president of the Amoud Foundation.
The group focuses on health care, education and helping displaced women and children in Somalia. Egal said group members had planned to come to Minnesota to tap the diaspora for funds for its work — but instead is focused on famine relief.
“Right now our mission is to save their lives,” Egal said.
The group has set up collection sites at area mosques and a Somali mall. Some of the money collected went to emergency food and water, with the rest going toward the feeding centers, where suffering can go get nourishment.
Mohamed Idris, executive director of ARAHA, said his team in Mogadishu is seeing more people in need of help each day.
“The situation is very critical,” he said. “We need to act swiftly to ensure these people get the aid they need.”
How to help: