Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Despite aid theft, UN calls for more food aid to Somalia

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations called for more international help for famine-struck Somalia on Monday — even as the organization's World Food Program admitted for the first time it has been investigating the theft of food aid for more than two months.
Thousands of sacks of stolen aid had popped up for sale in markets alongside refugee camps filled with starving people living in appallingly filthy conditions, according to an investigative report by The Associated Press.
But WFP warned that the 'scale and intensity' of the famine is such that countries need to continue to send aid — and failure to do so would lead to 'many unnecessary deaths.'
The wider UN call for more help Monday came from the UN Security Council, which gets involved in issues that are additionally considered to pose a threat to international peace.
Long considered to be a failed state, Somalia has since 2006 faced an insurgency led by al Shabab, a fearsome militant Islamist group that has been affiliated with al-Qaida since 2007.

Somalia has also had no effective government since the downfall of the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, while pirate gangs have for more than five years been a major threat to international shipping off the country's coast.
But in its statement seeking increased international donations, the 15-member Security Council told Somalia's struggling transitional government that future support was conditional on its ability to boost security and services over the next year.

Somali political groups — excluding the insurgents — are to meet next month to establish a government 'roadmap' for the next 12 months that would set targets for improving the performance of the transitional federal institutions — or TSIs.
'The members of the Security Council noted that future support to the TSIs would be contingent upon the completion of the tasks of the roadmap,' said the council statement, read by Hardeep Singh Puri, UN ambassador of India, which presides over the council this month.

The UN's $2.4 billion famine appeal remains less than half funded as the world body warns 3.2 million people are on the brink of starvation. The already catastrophic situation is expected to worsen because of high levels of malnutrition, still rising cereal prices and a below-average rainy season harvest.
Expressing the 'serious concern' of Security Council members that the appeal is not fully funded, the body's statement 'urged members states to contribute.'
WFP said it had established 'strengthened and rigorous' monitoring and control of food distribution in Somalia after The Associated Press report.
While it disputed AP's claims about the scale of the thefts, program officials nevertheless admitted that humanitarian supply lines remained 'highly vulnerable to looting, attack and diversion by armed groups.'
More than 450,000 Somalis live in famine zones controlled by al Shabab, which the monitoring group Human Rights Watch said in a report Sunday had seized what stocks families had, and imposed taxes that made it almost impossible for them to survive.

The report added, however, all other parties in the country's armed conflict had also committed serious violations of the laws of war, including the Transitional Federal Government, the African Union peacekeeping forces known by the acronym AMISOM, and Somali militias backed by Kenya and Ethiopia.'All sides have used artillery in the capital, Mogadishu, in an unlawful manner that has caused civilian casualties,' the report said. 'Al Shabab has fired mortars indiscriminately from densely populated areas, and the TFG and AMISOM forces have often responded in kind with indiscriminate counterattacks. As a result, civilians have not known where to turn for protection.'

Source: The Gazette

Monday, 1 August 2011

Somali famine victims lose homes as torrential rain hits refugee camps

Renewed appeals for aid made as wet weather adds to misery of thousands camped around Mogadishu

Tens of thousands of famine-stricken Somali refugees were left cold and drenched after torrential rains pounded their makeshift structures in the capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday, leading to renewed appeals for aid.

Rain is needed to alleviate the drought but it wrecked many of the makeshift homes made of sticks and scraps of cloth.

Suffering refugees said more aid was vital but agencies have limited reach in Somalia where Islamist militants, including the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, are waging an insurgency against the country's weak UN-backed government.

"We are living in plight, we left our homes, lost our animals and farms so we ask everyone to help us to survive," Abdi Muse Abshir said.

Lul Hussein, a mother of five, said her family had a sleepless night after their makeshift home crumbled.

"We are starved and we don't have enough help," she said. "Who's helping us? No one! So we are already between death and bad life."

Al-Shabab, the most dangerous group among the militants al-Shabab, has barred major relief organisations from operating in the territories it controls.

The UN said tens of thousands of people have died in Somalia in areas held by the Islamist rebels because food aid could not reach them.

The African Union peacekeeping force fears al-Shabab may try to attack the Mogadishu camps that house tens of thousands of famine refugees, disrupting even further the distribution of food aid. The AU force is attempting to push the militants' front line away from the camps.

The drought and the famine have affected more than 11.8 million people in the Horn of Africa and created a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet.

The World Food Programme says it cannot reach 2.2 million Somalis who live in territory controlled by al-Shabab in south-central Somalia.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Horrific stories coming up the fleeing people from the Drought and Famine in Somalia

Many stories coming up from the fleeing people from the drought and famine in the Southern Somalia, Thousands of Somalis reaching every day to Kenya and Ethiopia borders to find out humanitarian assistance, Aid workers discovered many horrific stories from the refugee camps in Kenya like Dhadab, Dhagahle and Bulo-adaw camps in Ethiopia. Aid workers found a small sun shelter hut with 4 children sitting around the dead body of their mother believing that she is alive. The family reached the camp before days but not get assistance, no one was aware the situation of the family. The Former refugee people in the camp were trying to help although they have nothing to provide newly coming refugees. The other sad story was that a mother fled from Somalia was on way to Kenya, one of her youngest child carrying with her back was become very sick and started to cry very loudly because of the hunger, later on the child stopped crying and movement, the mother tried to know how is her child, she saw the children stopped movement, she believed her child is passed away, and put the child near the road by covering some clothes and walked away to safe other remaining children. The Fleeing people found the child covered with clothes and saw the child still alive, provided water and food, the situation of the child get better and taken to the refugee camps in Kenya to trace, later the Aid workers and the refugee people traced and found later the mother of the child and given to her.

Forgotten Diaries Blogger

Food aid for Somalia could be flown into country within a week

Food aid for starving Somalis living in Islamist-held territory could be flown into the country within “a week to 10 days”, the World Food Programme said.

The international effort to bring humanitarian relief to 3.7 million Somalis who need urgent help to beat drought and famine is being hampered by al-Shabaab's refusal to let most agencies into their territory.

The al-Qaeda-inspired insurgents backtracked on an earlier promise to allow access.

But the United Nations said it was planning to fly food into areas held by the Islamists despite the ban.

“There are 2.2 million people yet to be reached,” said Josette Sheeran, the head of the agency.

“It is the most dangerous environment we are working in in the world. But people are dying. It’s not about politics, it’s about saving lives now.”

WFP was one of the many organisations that al-Shabaab effectively forced out last year after imposing strict conditions of operation including no foreign female staff.

The group also taxed aid convoys.

Regis Chapman, the head of WFP's operations in Somalia, said that food deliveries would soon start into the limited parts of Mogadishu controlled by the internationally-backed government.

He added that “within a week to 10 days” WFP would be sending food into areas controlled by the Islamists.

The Red Cross on Sunday said that it had delivered 400 tonnes of food to 24,000 people in Gedo province, the first time it had taken supplies into al-Shabaab's territory since 2009. More than 2 million Somalis in the worst affected areas, including two famine zones, live in al-Shabaab territory and cannot be reached by international aid.

They are among more than 11.5 million people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia who need urgent help to keep them from starving after at least two years with no rain.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation will meet with the heads of most major charities in Rome to draw “the political attention of leaders of the world” to the crisis, Cristina Amaral, the FAO's head of emergency operations said

G20 and World Food Program to hold emergency meeting on Somali famine

Amid a deteriorating humanitarian tragedy in drought and famine-hit Somalia, the UN is preparing to hold a special session to discuss the slow, complicated and dangerous nature of getting food aid deeper into the fractured country.

The UN’s food agency, the World Food Program, will hold emergency talks in Rome, Italy, in an effort to raise further funds and discuss the situation on the ground, which is immensely complicated due to the lack of a functioning government and the dominance of the al-Shabab militant group.

Somalia has been fractured by civil war for decades. It is only in recent years that an African Union military effort was able to win back the capital, Mogadishu, for the impotent interim government, which yields no authority beyond the city.

It is the innocent civilians who have suffered through the years of violence, but now a devastating drought has increased the suffering tenfold, causing death throughout the country and shocking famine in two vast regions of Somalia.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to the international community for help. The UN needs around US $1.6 billion to see around 10 million people through the drought, expected to last until September.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross has been delivering food to around 25,000 people within one of the famine zones. A further 2.2 million in the country are in need of help.

The United Kingdom and France have led the international response to the crisis, with France calling the emergency meeting Monday in Rome. Delegates from the G20 countries will meet at the World Food Program headquarters to discuss the crisis.

The famine has been caused by the lack of a central government in Somalia, leaving the population with no protection or national leadership.

The country is under-developed due to a lack of investment, which has left farmers with no irrigation and other agriculture investment schemes that would have helped them through the worst of the drought.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Famine in Somalia is 'immoral': UN aid coordinator

by Dario Thuburn
ROME, July 24, 2011 (AFP) - With the world scrambling to rescue 12 million people on the brink of starvation in the Horn of Africa, UN emergency official Cristina Amaral said the fact that children are dying of hunger is "immoral". As head of emergency operations in Africa for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Amaral has been warning about the crisis facing the drought-stricken region since November, after the rainy season failed.
Now she says it's not enough for donor countries to stump up some cash for immediate food aid -- there needs to be long-term investment to help farmers resist droughts and international mediation to bring peace to war-torn Somalia.
"When we have a declaration of famine in the 21st century, we should consider this immoral," Amaral told AFP in an interview as she prepared for emergency talks at FAO in Rome on Monday aimed at coordinating the aid effort.
Ministers, aid chiefs and charities are meeting to discuss ways of stepping up food supplies and delivering them to the epicentre of the famine in southern Somalia, much of which is under the control of Islamist militants.
"Without access to south Somalia, we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg -- those refugees arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia," Amaral said. "There are many more -- we estimate 3.7 million -- that need emergency assistance," she added.
The Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group has banned humanitarian aid agencies like the World Food Programme from working in the region, although FAO has been able to operate several small programmes to help farmers through local partners.
"We hope that the political negotiation will evolve and that the humanitarian situation prevailing will make the clans in Somalia negotiate in a way that will free the access to people in need," she said.
Amaral said the international community is now seeing the results of years of under-investment in solutions to the chronic drought problems of the region.
Projects to improve the management of pastures by herders, to improve animal health and to introduce more resilient crops would go a long way, she said.
"We know what to do but the funding only works when you have the media attention and that's the problem," she said. "War has become a normality there. You only hear about Somalia when there are pirates," she added.
"We need to look at this protracted crisis with a different kind of solution. Somalia has had a lot of humanitarian aid but not much long-term investment," she said, blaming misperceptions that any efforts are hopeless.
"People don't get out of the drought cycle in one or two years. Usually it takes five or six years. In this case we had a drought in 2008 and we're having another one in 2011. People have not yet recovered from the first one."
She said FAO needs $135 million dollars (94 million euros) for its projects.
Amaral's work has taken her to some of the most deprived countries and worst humanitarian crises in the world, with some of her most recent efforts concentrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Zimbabwe.
She said that, bad as the current crisis is, it still does not compare with previous humanitarian disasters in Ethiopia and Somalia in the 1980s and 1990s.
"Overall we have more capacity to respond today," she said.
But she added: "We're afraid that things will get worse in the coming months if nothing is done now." UN agencies say tens of thousands of people have died due to the drought and warn half a million children are at risk of dying.
One aggravating factor in the drought crisis has been the sharp spike in food and fuel prices in countries like Djibouti and Somalia that are net importers of food -- a point expected to be raised at the FAO talks on Monday.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

UN to formally declare famine in drought-hit southern Somalia

The United Nations is set to declare a famine in drought-ravaged southern Somalia, the first time such a declaration has been made since the early 1990s.
More than 10 million people in the Horn of Africa are in need of emergency assistance due to drought and ongoing conflict, according to the UN
The famine announcement is expected Wednesday in Nairobi, and will be the first time the UN has declared a famine since 1992. It signals to donors the extreme need for more aid, and warns insurgents in Somalia that the population's suffering is taken seriously by the world community.
The formal conditions for famine are two adult deaths or four children deaths from hunger per 10,000 people a day, more than 30 per cent of children must be suffering from acute malnutrition and the population must have access to less than 2,100 kilocalories of food per day.
The drought, the worst seen in the region in 60 years, decimated the region's livestock and fields, both the only source of income and food for many people.
Thousands of people are arriving daily at large refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, raising fears of disease due to poor sanitation and overcrowding.
The population in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in Kenya, has swelled to more than 380,000 people.
On Tuesday, the UN said that it needs further safety guarantees from armed groups in Somalia if it is to help those in need.
Somalia's most dangerous militant group, al-Shabab, has promised aid groups limited access to areas under their control. The group banned foreign agencies two years ago.
Oxfam said on Tuesday night that only around $200 million in new money has been provided for relief efforts so far. An estimated $1 billion is needed to stave off a major humanitarian catastrophe.
Meanwhile, top Canadian charities have banded together to address the Somalia crisis.
A network of five Canadian NGOs, including CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec, Plan Canada and Save the Children Canada, are uniting to tackle the relief efforts.
The Humanitarian Coalition aims to reduce unnecessary competition, better educate the public on humanitarian needs, increase the impact of Canadian humanitarian responses and reduce administrative costs.
Canada has contributed more than $11 million to the crisis.