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Somalia Copes With Impact of Tsunami and Political Upheaval

This week the VOA program Point of View focused on the impact of last year's tsunami on the people of Somalia.

The Somalis call it the triple disaster. First came four years of unrelenting drought that ended in October with torrential downpours. Then came the floods and a deadly cold spell that decimated livestock. Finally the tsunami struck last December.

Gordon Molitor, Director of Care for Somalia, says thousands of Somalis are facing a desperate struggle for survival. "Somalia is located many many miles away from where the tsunami actually started so by the time it got to Somalia it was not as strong," he said. "Initially it effected areas that are not as densely populated as those are in Asia. Never the less it left a toll. There is estimated to be about 300 people dead and missing and affecting about 18,000 households or about 54,000 people along a long stretch of isolated Somali coastline."

Not only natural disasters, but the politics of Somalia are causing great suffering as well. After the ouster of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, turmoil, factional fighting and anarchy have plagued Somalia for over a decade. But the transitional government recently announced plans to begin relocating to the capital.

"Somalia is in a crossroad," Mr. Molitor says. "It is just developed a new central government after years of negotiations here in Nairobi, Kenya. The government is still located in Kenya and is exploring the possibilities of moving back to its former capital in Mogadishu. The reason it hasn’t done so already is because of the high level of insecurity in Mogadishu and many other parts of the country."

We asked Mr. Molitor how organizations like Care help a country where a government does not exit? "There is no central government, but there are local or regional governments in Somali land, which has declared itself as an autonomous country, but it has not been recognized internationally. There is a regional government in Puntlin which whom we do a number of projects including the tsunami relief, but almost everything that CARE does in Somalia is through local Somalia NGO’s. Somali’s helping themselves."

Somalia is a land the world has but forgotten. Years of clan warfare have left millions dead or displaced. War, famine and death have become familiar horrors. In the south, clan-based militias and warlords vie for control. I asked Care's Gordon Molitor what the future holds for Somalia.

"Well, we are hoping that the new Somalia government will be able to take control of the situation in Somalia and start to form a democratic society, which has a respect for human rights. Somalia has had a civil war since the Mohamed Siad Barre government collapsed in 1991," he replied. "In addition they have had a number of droughts here and many of them are just recently. So the country is suffering from civil war, a lack of governance on many levels, drought on top of war and the drought and now you have the tsunami. It is really now in need of financial support from the international community to make sure that it doesn’t fall into anarchy or worse."

Mr. Molitor pointed out that Somalia's transitional government still remains in exile in Kenya, afraid to return to the capital Mogadishu, where anarchy reigns and gunmen roam the streets.

Note: Point of View is a weekly VOA radio segment that features leaders and experts debating different sides of an issue or topic. Click on the audio link above to listen to the full program.