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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs