The Deaf Claque

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Somalia Is Still Down

By Theo O’Brien

The eastern African country has continued to struggle finding stability after the United Nations’ forces withdrew in 1995. The government’s military—with aid from its ally, Ethiopia—has attempted to suppress a strong insurgency, but is suffering heavy casualties and fierce resistance. The insurgents are suspected to be mostly composed of the former government in Somalia: the Union of Islamic Courts. The Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has asked his citizens to aid the troops countering the insurgency.

‘My government is doing all it can to save lives but people in the neighbourhood must also fight the al-Shabab militants hiding among them,’ President Yusuf told a news conference in Nairobi.” (1)

The conflict has created a large amount of refugees and a huge problem for the humanitarian aid organizations attempting to stave off more civilian casualties.

The worst humanitarian crisis in Africa may not be unfolding in Darfur, but here, along a 20-mile strip of busted-up asphalt, several top United Nations officials said.

A year ago, the road between the market town of Afgooye and the capital of Mogadishu was just another typical Somali byway, lined with overgrown cactuses and the occasional bullet-riddled building. Now it is a corridor teeming with misery, with 200,000 recently displaced people crammed into swelling camps that are rapidly running out of food.” (2)

Somalia has seemed to receive far less aid and attention than the similarly tragic crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan—though U.N. officials are claiming that Somalis in a worse situation.

Top United Nations officials who specialize in Somalia said the country had higher malnutrition rates, more current bloodshed and fewer aid workers than Darfur, which is often publicized as the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis and has taken clear priority in terms of getting peacekeepers and aid money. (2)

The reason for the inattention to Somalia’s on-going disaster is that the country has been in crisis for many years, compared to Darfur’s relatively new tragedy, says Eric Laroche, the head of United Nations humanitarian operations in Somalia.

If this were happening in Darfur, there would be a big fuss. But Somalia has been a forgotten emergency for years.” (2)

I am not contending that either crisis is more important—obviously, both are incredibly disturbing situations—but simply attempting to draw awareness to the alarming circumstances facing the Somali people.

November 20, 2007 - Posted by | Humanitarian Crisis, Theo O'Brien | ,

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