News / Africa

Frustration Mounts As Somalis Wait for Famine Relief

Multimedia

Audio

Humanitarian groups in famine-hit Somalia say thousands are dying while deliveries of desperately needed aid from big international agencies may be weeks, perhaps months away.

The delays are adding to the frustrations of aid providers overwhelmed by the human tragedy unfolding in the Horn of Africa.

Each day brings new evidence of the magnitude of the famine gripping Somalia. At Mogadishu’s Banadir Hospital, the main intake center for severe malnutrition cases, pediatrician Dr. Lul Mohammed says the number of new cases is staggering.

"I see an average 150-200 children every day.  Every day we see 2 or 3 children dying. In July 90 children died, 3,155 were admitted in July.  August is same. The number [dying] is increasing because they are coming later. All are severe. They have 2-3 things together. Sometimes severe malnutrition, severe dehydration, severe anemia, and the survival rate is very low," Mohammed said.

Despite these high death rates, those who make it to Banadir Hospital are considered the lucky few.  Dr. Iftiqar Mohammed of the Islamic Relief Agency in Somalia says most famine victims die without ever seeing a doctor.

"The mortality rate is, it is difficult to figure out what is the number. Yesterday at one camp, 7 children died, and they [were] buried.  Day before yesterday 9, [at a camp that] has only 1,600 households," Mohammed said.

Dr. Mohammed says the latest fear is that the famine has triggered a cholera epidemic in the tent camps that have sprung up all around Mogadishu as families stream into the capital from rural areas held by the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab militant group.

"Our concern now is whether it can be cholera outbreak. We don’t know. We know diarrhea outbreak is there, but we are not sure whether it is cholera. But today’s and yesterday’s admissions at Banadir alert us whether it may be a cholera outbreak," Mohammed said.

Definition of Famine:

The word famine is a term that is not used lightly by humanitarian organizations. The United Nations describes a crisis as a famine only when the following conditions are met:

  • Malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent
  • More than two people per 10,000 people are dying each day
  • Severe lack of food access for large population

Current Famine:

    Almost half of Somalia's population, 3.7 million people, are affected by the current crisis with malnutrition rates in southern Somalia the highest in the world, surpassing 50 per cent in some areas. The United Nations says it is likely that tens of thousands have already have died, the majority of those being children.

    The drought that has led to the current famine in parts of Somalia has also affected people in Kenya and Ethiopia.

    Previous Famines in the Horn of Africa:

  • Somalia 1991-1992
  • Ethiopia 1984-1985
  • Ethiopia 1974

Dr. Mohammed worries the aid on the way from the big international humanitarian agencies may not arrive in time. The World Food Program and others have little or no infrastructure for delivering aid in Somalia. They say even if tons of food arrives at Mogadishu port, getting it to those most in need will be difficult and dangerous.

The Sri Lankan physician is openly dismissive of the United Nations agencies based in nearby Kenya charged with providing aid in Somalia. He says their vantage point in Nairobi leaves them with no idea how bad conditions are.

"When we are sitting in Nairobi you don’t feel the severity of the situation here. Since you don’t see by your own eyes, you rely only on data and information gathering from the field. Figures only, but you don’t see the reality. But when you come here, that’s what we would prefer the UN organizations, UNICEF, WHO everyone, make a field visit and see, not just confined with the airport, come mingle with the IDPs [displaced people] hear them, what is the need, and see what is going on," Mohammed said.

News agency reports reaching Somalia say the big push is on in world capitals to gather the cash and the supplies of food and other life-saving materials for Somalia as fast as possible. A consortium of doctors and health professionals from Arab countries is due to arrive within days, and the head of the UN disaster relief organization OCHA is making an emergency visit to Mogadishu.

But for those doctors and parents watching children die each day, the frustrations are mounting. They ask, “how long will it take, and how many more must die?"

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs