News / Africa

UN, AU Troops Protect Mogadishu Aid Workers

United Nations personnel look on as a worker serves food at a camp in Hodan district in Mogadishu, January 19, 2012
United Nations personnel look on as a worker serves food at a camp in Hodan district in Mogadishu, January 19, 2012

Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, is said to be among the most dangerous places in the world, mainly because of the multitude of unpredictable and deadly attacks by the militant Islamic group al-Shabab. Yet, national and international aid workers continue to provide badly-needed help among the traumatized population, with the assistance of security officers from the United Nations and African Union.

Today’s mission is to take a group of journalists to various sites within Somalia’s beleaguered capital. It is a tour designed to show first-hand the deplorable living conditions of those who fled drought, famine, and al-Shabab.

United Nations’ field security coordinating officer Jotame Misivono knows that anything can happen at any time. Within the past week, several roadside bombs have gone off on Mogadishu’s streets and almost a dozen armed clashes took place. Just yesterday, the mayor’s deputy assistant’s car was blown up by an IED, or improvised explosive device, that was planted inside his car.

Misivono’s job is to transport United Nations staff in armored vehicles called “caspers” as they carry out their humanitarian work. He says anticipating possible insurgent attacks - and taking measures to prevent being targeted - is a challenge, but needs to be done because, as he says, “people need to be fed and supported.”

“It’s normal to a human being’s reaction, that you have fear. But as a professional, you have to control your fear, taking into consideration that the life of the staff members are in your hands,” said Misivono.

For Gwendoline Mensah, head of the United Nations refugee agency in Mogadishu, Misivono and his colleagues are a godsend, as is the African Union mission, known as AMISOM.

“Whenever we go outside of the U.N. compound, then we go, as we did today, in the caspers," said Mensah. "You have the highly professional AMISOM soldiers who are protecting you. Of course, they cannot mitigate against every possible threat, but you do feel confident that, if something should happen, they will be on hand.”

A Ugandan peacekeeper from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) assists his wounded colleague after an encounter with Islamist militia in the northern suburbs of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 20, 2012
A Ugandan peacekeeper from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) assists his wounded colleague after an encounter with Islamist militia in the northern suburbs of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, January 20, 2012

AMISOM is comprised of troops from Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya.  AMISOM’s stated aim is to, among other things, stabilize the capital to make it safe for humanitarian workers to operate.

Captain Ronald Kakurugu takes comfort in the fact that he and his colleagues are trained to physically and psychologically prepare for, and deal with, anything that could happen at any moment. He describes what happened after he was injured when insurgents fired a bomb as the troops were securing part of Mogadishu.

“Fortunately, we have a very swift medical team - we have several medical teams. Casualty evacuation is very fast," said Kakurugu. "First aid itself is done very quickly, and evacuation to the hospital is also very fast. So all that was done and in the space of about 15 minutes I was under very good care, and I recovered after a few weeks.”

In the bustling compound of the Somali Rehabilitation and Development Agency, or SORDA, hundreds of mostly women and children receive food rations and health care.  Nurse Khadra Suleyman is giving a young mother medicine for her sick baby.

Suleyman has had at least one close call on the streets of Mogadishu, being injured by a stray bullet when thugs shot a man while robbing him.

Al-Shabab killed Suleyman’s husband three years ago - she says she is both mother and father to her eight children.  Love and care for her children keep her going back to the workplace day after day despite the risks.  Her big worry is who will care for her children if she dies.  But, speaking through a translator, she says she has found strength and a certain level of peace.

“I pray to Allah and I feel that I will not be in trouble since I am helping people," said Suleyman. "But thanks to Allah, since I have been working here, I have never encountered a problem.”

The safety of national and international aid workers is a growing problem within Mogadishu and across the country. Doctors Without Borders this week announced that they would cease operations in a section of the capital following the killings of two of its workers.

Last November, al-Shabab banned 16 international aid agencies from operating in the territories it controls. The militant group accused the agencies of spying on them on behalf of western entities.

A season of rains has eased the drought that helped drive parts of southern Somalia into famine last year. But the situation in the country remains dire. According to U.N. figures released in December, 250,000 people in Somalia face imminent starvation, 450,000 children are acutely malnourished, and 3.7 million people all across the country are in need of primary or basic secondary health care services.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More