News / Africa

Somalis Rip Aid Donors For 'Failing' Famine Victims

Women wait for medical care at Camp Seyidka, a camp for displaced people, in Mogadishu, Somalia, August 19, 2011
Women wait for medical care at Camp Seyidka, a camp for displaced people, in Mogadishu, Somalia, August 19, 2011

A top British official says 400,000 children could die of starvation and disease in Somalia unless international agencies speed up deliveries of lifesaving food and medicines. In the capital Mogadishu, people became increasingly impatient with the slow pace of the famine response.

The children’s wards of Mogadishu’s Banadir Hospital are bursting with infants on a knife-edge between life and death.

More families with malnourished children stream in to the capital each day from rural areas in a desperate search for life-saving food and medicines.

Makeshift camps for internally displaced people are overflowing with an estimated 200,000 people surviving mainly on handouts from the local business community.

On a visit to Mogadishu this week, Britain’s international development secretary Andrew Mitchell described the world’s response to the crisis as “dangerously inadequate."  He urged international donors to move faster to save about 400,000 children across Somalia at risk of starvation.

From the standpoint of local people, it’s hard to understand why help has been so slow in coming. A Danish television crew recently gained access to a United Nations World Food Program warehouse at the Mogadishu port, and showed large stocks of food in storage.

Somali photojournalist Mohammed Dahir says there is a widespread belief among people that the WFP is sitting on stocks of food while children go hungry.

"The food is stuck at the port," he said. "You don’t get to see any food distributions. You’d be here in Mogadishu 10 days, and [not] see any WFP official on the ground. You can’t see them."

WFP officials say they are working as fast as possible to organize a safe and effective aid delivery pipeline. But spokesman Susannah Nicoll points out that years of terror and intimidation by the al-Qaida linked militant group al-Shabab forced most aid agencies to abandon Somalia operations.

Now that al-Shabab has withdrawn from Mogadishu, she says efforts to rebuild delivery systems are having a hard time keeping pace with the unfolding human tragedy.

"There are so many people arriving it’s an overwhelming situation, so it’s a very difficult balance of actually trying to have the control mechanisms to be able to know you are able to reach the people you need to reach safely with minimal risk," said Nicoll.

Local aid groups argue that Western humanitarian organizations must accept greater risk given the scale of suffering in Somalia.

Mogadishu Mayor Mohamoud Ahmed Nur ridicules the suggestion that the famine zone is too dangerous for aid distribution. He argues that groups like WFP should put aside what he calls “ideological blinders” and begin cooperating with Islamic humanitarian agencies, even those with suspected links to extremists.

"They raise a lot of money on behalf of the suffering of Somali people," said Nur. "If that money cannot reach on time, it’s useless if it becomes too late. If Arab agencies or Arab Red Crescent can distribute, why not these agencies? Why can’t they do the same thing?  Are they special?"

The WFP’s Susannah Nicoll says all options remain open as the aid community looks at ways to get food to the people, including working with Islamic agencies.

Another veteran humanitarian official, Mercy Corps’ Cassandra Nelson says the aid community sympathizes with the impatience of Somalis who are watching their children die. At the same time, she says agencies must consider the risks carefully. To move hastily, she cautions, “would not be doing anyone any favors, including ourselves”.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid