Somalia is the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis

BBC NEWS | Africa | ‘Thousands’ desert Somalia forces.

Somalians sit in the sun as they wait for food provided during Operation Provide Relief, Somalia
Somalians sit in the sun as they wait for food provided during Operation Provide Relief, Somalia

Somalia, the African country where 13 year old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death last month, is a the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, even worse than Sudan, according to the UN.

  • The population of Somalia is 8.4 million.
  • More than 3.2 million need humanitarian aid
  • More than 1.1 million are displaced.
  • Refugees from Somalia last year: 457,000
  • Doctors per 100,000 people: 4
  • Population with access to clean water: 29%
  • Children under-five under height for age: 38%
  • Under-five mortality rate: 145 per 1000 live births
  • Children attending primary school: Boys -24%; Girls – 20%

Humanitarian aid often fails to reach those who need it because of conflict, high inflation, corruption, pirate attacks on sea deliveries, roadblocks and armed attacks on aid convoys.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to work so aid agencies do not base personnel there. 80% of Somalia’s security forces; soldiers, officers and police have deserted, taking with them weapons, uniforms and vehicles.

Piracy is a multi-million dollar industry employing between 1000-1500 pirates and using over 60 small boats and mother ships. Pirates invoke legitimate Somali grievances regarding foreign exploitation of marine resources such as illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping in Somali waters, thus gaining community support. In September, the pirates seized a Ukrainian freighter loaded with 33 battle tanks and off Kenya in November they seized a Saudi supertanker carrying $100m worth of crude oil. So far this year, they have attacked 100 ships and raked in an estimated $30m in ransoms for ships and crews. At present, the pirates hold 14 ships and 250 crew.

It is piracy that has finally provoked some action. Today, the Bush administration asked the UN for authorization to hunt Somali pirates on land with the co-operation of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government in one of the Bush administration’s last major foreign policy initiatives. The US circulated a draft Security Council resolution proposing that all nations and regional groups co-operating with Somalia’s government in the fight against piracy and armed robbery “may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia”, including its airspace.

I can’t imagine how this intervention will make life better for the people of Somalia. Stopping the piracy is just treating a symptom. How will the people be better off if they are bombed by American planes? If peace, security and the rule of law were restored to Somalia, and all of the people had a chance for a decent life then the piracy would stop.

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