WASHINGTON - Droughts and heavy fighting have brought Somalia close to another bout of famine, just three years after food shortages killed 260,000 people in the troubled Horn of Africa country. The United Nations has begun urgent humanitarian aid deliveries to parts of Somalia that previously were controlled by armed insurgents. Zlatica Hoke reports that Somali journalists have discussed how they could contribute to peace building in the troubled country.
Thousands of Somalis have fled to a camp near the Ethiopian border this year, as a prolonged drought has made it impossible to make a living at home.
“I moved here because in the location where we lived before, we used to get water from wells. The wells have since dried up. I am here so that I can be closer to both the water supply and the town," said Zainab Buralee, a camp resident.
Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991, when its military leadership was overthrown. Since then, Islamist militants have battled the central government, fostering terror across the country in their effort to establish an Islamic state. The violence has forced people from their homes and fields, and has exacerbated food shortages.
“There is an offensive against the insurgents. The al-Shabab militants in some parts of the region, the Bay and Bakool regions. So a lot of people are displaced from their homes as a result of that crisis. So that increases the number of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) that were already vulnerable to this drought," said Abdiwelli Jamal Hassan, a humanitarian coordinator.
The government has been fighting to reclaim the territory held by the terrorist group al-Shabab. A recent U.S. drone strike killed the group's leader, but roads in many parts of the country are unsafe.
"Somalia as a country had a very difficult situation and circumstances where many communities were cut off from health services because of [a lack of] accessibility and insecurity,” said UNICEF’s Abdinor Hussein.
The United Nations has begun an airlift of urgent food and medical supplies into southwestern parts of the country that were controlled by the militants until March of this year. Many children in those areas have not been vaccinated yet.
"The first child got measles when he was six. He developed high fever and had diarrhea and, after 10 days, he developed a skin rash. He is lucky to have survived. My other three children also contracted measles at the age of four and had the same symptoms,” said one mother.
Somali journalists, meeting in Mogadishu, discussed what they could do to help stabilize the country.
"We as Somali journalists, I think it is important for us to have peace and we need it in reality because every day, journalists are killed here in Somalia. We are wounded and some journalists have fled the country. So I believe we need peace,” said Burhan Dini Farah, one of the journalists.
The meeting coincided with the release of German-American journalist Michael Scott Moore, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates more than two-and-a-half years ago.