Somalis Caught in a Stranglehold

Unpredictable Climate, Lack of Security, and Absence of Essential Services are Aggravating a Precarious Situation
Unpredictable climate, lack of security, and absence of essential services are aggravating a precarious situation.

The world has turned its attention recently to fighting among "Islamist tribunals" and "warlords" in Somalia, but for 15 years the population's access to basic resources and critical humanitarian aid has been tenuous. The country's unpredictable climate, a general lack of security, and the absence of essential services in this country, which has not had a government since 1991, are aggravating the Somalis' precarious situation.

A Country In Ruins

For a decade and a half, Somalia has been splintered by socio-political, ideological, and economic conflicts. In spite of attempts to normalize the political situation during the past two years, the absence of any central power (army, national administration, judicial system, police, etc.) and basic public services (health care centers, potable water, schools, etc.) have, since 1991, contributed to this unparalleled breakdown.

The absence of a health care infrastructure has led to a degradation of living conditions, especially in the cities. In addition, the capital, Mogadishu, has been faced in recent years with population growth due to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons living in extremely precarious economic and sanitary conditions.

A Fragile And Forgotten People

In the south, rural communities have suffered from many troubles over the past several years: their areas are isolated and forgotten; their families' livelihoods are constricted; their access to resources are limited; unpredictable rainy seasons are affecting people as well as livestock; and tensions among clans are worsening.

In this difficult environment, any additional shock severely tests communities' strategies for adaptation and survival. Faced with recent fighting in Mogadishu, the population has suffered the consequences of insecurity, including problems with access to basic resources and humanitarian aid, limited provisions in the city, and shifts in population.

The Next Harvest Is Critical

In southern Somalia, Action Against Hunger has been warning since the beginning of the year of the humanitarian consequences of an abnormally long dry period in the Horn of Africa. Some months later, while the worst may have been avoided in the short term (humanitarian aid, although partial, was brought to certain areas, and recent rains have partially regenerated water supply points and pastures), farmers have lost parts of their herds, and the results of the next harvest, expected in July, are critical. It will be necessary to provide attention and support to this population during this period.

Action Against Hunger In Somalia

Interventions in Mogadishu remain difficult for the few humanitarian organizations that continue to work there. Action Against Hunger has been delivering aid in Somalia and Mogadishu since 1992. Faced with extremely dangerous conditions and limited access, Action Against Hunger has succeeded in maintaining vital humanitarian programs in Mogadishu without interruption, while adapting its mode of operation: since 2001, its activities have been directed on the ground by teams of nationals, supervised by expatriate coordinators based in Nairobi. These coordinators go to Mogadishu only for brief visits, when security conditions permit.

In March 2006, Action Against Hunger established emergency operations in the area of Wajid (Bakool), including the distribution of potable water in 98 villages for more than 15,000 households and the opening of a therapeutic nutrition center in Wajid, which has, in two months, treated more than 200 severely malnourished children. In addition, teams from Action Against Hunger led the restoration of wells to prepare for the rainy season of April and May. Finally, the organization moved forward with seed distribution for nearly 18,000 families. These emergency operations supplement food security activities aimed at developing greater diversity in production systems with the distribution of seeds and tools, training in agricultural practices, and the establishment of vegetable gardens.

Despite the recent fighting, Action Against Hunger's activities in Mogadishu have continued without interruption. These include:

  • Two therapeutic nutrition centers caring for 270 severely malnourished children
  • A medical consultation center receiving 3,200 visits per month
  • A maternal health center receiving 500 visits per month
  • Two vaccination centers receiving 500 per month
  • Chlorination of more than 300 wells
  • A cholera treatment center for use in the event of an epidemic