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

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid