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
    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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora