UN: Somalia Will Remain Largest Humanitarian Crisis
Cathy Majtenyi | Mogadishu January 26, 2012
The United Nations says the situation in Somalia is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, and will remain so this year. Particularly hard hit are the so-called IDPs, or "Internally-displaced persons" - thousands of Somalis who fled famine and brutal attacks by the feared al-Shabab militant group and languish in IDP camps throughout the capital.
Seventy-year-old Khadija Abdirahman’s despair is palatable. “We lost our livestock and farm. This is what I wear -- this tattered clothing. All we do now is just beg," he said. "We have nothing. This is where I sleep. We are just waiting for God’s assistance.”
The Abdirahman family has been living in a camp for five months, after having fled their home in fear of being attacked by al-Shabab.
“We have left our homes. Al-Shabab beheads people, children, elderly - no one is exempt. If you pray to Allah, and you use these beads that I am wearing, they pull and tear the beads,” Abdirahman explained.
In another settlement nearby, 79-year-old Hassan Mahmud describes his one big wish. “I want al-Shabab to leave the country and the country to be peaceful,” he said.
Tens of thousands of so-called IDPs in camps in the Somali capital are hungry, frightened and trying to just survive.
Six months ago, the United Nations declared famine in parts of Somalia. Nearly four million Somalis still need food, healthcare, and other urgent assistance in Mogadishu and around the country.
In Mogadishu, U.N. spokesman Russell Geekie paints a grim picture.
“The crisis in Somalia remains the largest in the world, and will continue up until September. It demands the international community’s attention and commitment,” Geekie stated.
The Somali Rehabilitation and Development Agency, or SORDA, gives badly-needed food rations, daily hot meals, and healthcare to IDPs and Mogadishu residents.
Some progress has been made. In Mogadishu, the World Food Program and its partners last month were able to distribute food rations to about 240,000 people.
Challiss McDonough is a spokeswoman for the World Food Program. “The level of humanitarian assistance reaching Mogadishu is making a difference. There have been significant improvements in both the nutrition and food security situations. So I think that it is important to note that that kind of assistance, it is necessary to sustain it, because people do not recover overnight,” she noted.
Aid workers here say - international help will be needed for some time to come.
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