News / Africa

Somalia’s New President Faces Humanitarian Challenges

Somalia's new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud Sept. 10, 2012
Somalia's new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud Sept. 10, 2012

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Somalia’s new President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud takes office during an easing of the humanitarian crisis in his country. But a top humanitarian official warns there are many problems yet to be resolved and many people still displaced.



It wasn’t very long ago that Somalia was called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Conflict, prolonged drought and famine were to blame. Things are somewhat better now.

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden said the number of people considered “in crisis” has dropped by 16 percent from a high of more than two and a half million.

“I think there have been improvements over the last six months or so. But we still have about 2.1 million people in Somalia who are in critical need of assistance. And many of these are in areas that are still under al Shabab control. Their situation has been made worse to some extent by fears of insecurity. So we’ve also seen recently people moving towards Ethiopia to avoid conflict,” he said.

The al Shabab militant group has been hard-pressed by military offensives launched by U.N. and government forces, as well as by Kenya. The group had once controlled nearly all of the capital Mogadishu. That caused hundreds of thousands of people to resettle in the Afgooye corridor outside of the city. But many have now returned.

Bowden said, “In Mogadishu, there’s a very large-scale problem of people who had been displaced, who were displaced by the famine last year and also people who’ve returned to Mogadishu. So there are 340,000 people just in Mogadishu living in very, very poor conditions, which we also need to address. So there are still many sizable humanitarian challenges in Somalia at the moment.”

The coastal parts of Somalia were badly affected by the drought and the World Food Program is providing assistance there. Also, while the famine is now a very bad memory, Bowden warned it could happen again.

“Somalia has always been a trading economy and the famine last year was caused by a combination of drought and very high levels of inflation. And if you get that combination again there would still be very significant problems. But one of the things that all agencies are looking at now is how we can better strengthen the resilience of the population. Make them better able to withstand shocks. Reestablish their access to livelihoods and also help them to reestablish their own family security in terms of stores of food and restocking their animals,” he said.

Humanitarian agencies are gearing up for an emergency response that may be needed once an assault is launched on the al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo. The port city provides the group with much revenue.

“We certainly have contingency plans to address needs in Kismayo. Unfortunately at the moment there are very few humanitarian organizations still able to work in Kismayo and under difficult conditions. So we are ready to provide support as soon as we have improved access or, if people leave, to provide them where they need it,” Bowden said.

The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia added he expects President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud to make humanitarian issues a priority.

“I actually do know the president already,” he said, “I’ve worked with him in the past and I know that he is someone who will respect humanitarian principles and has a great commitment to developing his country as a nation and supporting his people.

One million Somalis are still living as refugees in the region with more than half in Kenya. U.N. agencies have asked for over one billion dollars this year to meet Somalia’s humanitarian needs. So far, only about half has been donated.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid