Rains ease Somali drought

 
This file picture taken on 16 October 2011, shows Somali boys fetching water from a puddle that formed after rain at the IFO-2 complex in the sprawling Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya Hundreds of thousands are sheltering in refugee camps in Kenya after fleeing the famine in Somalia

The long drought has lifted in southern and central Somalia, with fairly good rains now falling across much of those regions gripped by famine.

The rain brings some risks. There's particular concern among aid workers about communicable diseases like cholera spreading, above all in the crowded camps in Mogadishu.

Measles is perhaps the biggest threat, although that has less to do with the rains and more to do with the Islamist group al-Shabab's obstruction of mass vaccinations.

Aid deliveries could also get bogged down on the region's notoriously bad roads - although I hear that's not yet a major problem.

But the rain also means it is planting time - a critical period for those families that have not yet abandoned their homes, and for all those fighting to ensure that as many people as possible are able to stay in their communities.

Over the past few days I've been speaking in the aid "hub" of Nairobi to a number of senior officials involved in famine relief inside Somalia. Many have spent years - if not decades - working in the region.

Below I thought I would try to sum up some key points.

Most of the conversations were "off the record". It can sometimes be hard to separate humanitarian work from politics in an environment as complex as Somalia and many involved are cautious about public statements.

  • Everyone is concerned about the coming months. But the predictions range from "nightmarish" to - and I know it sounds callous taken out of context - "people will keep dying, but overall, we're not too worried about the situation".
  • The aid operation is "well funded until the end of the year" - but after that "it's a worry".
  • The dominant player in food deliveries - the World Food Programme - is still not able to access the worst regions, all controlled by al-Shabab. However others agencies are working to fill that gap and the ICRC maintains it is reaching all areas under al-Shabab control. It has already helped more than a million people and distributed 17,000 metric tons of food and seeds. One official said the ICRC was doing "an outstanding job" but others point out that Somalia's needs are still not close to being met, with four million people requiring urgent food aid.
  • Despite some "alarmism" from a handful of aid agencies, Kenya's military incursion has not yet had a significant impact on the humanitarian situation inside Somalia. The concern though, is that an escalation in fighting could yet lead more families to flee rather than planting crops.
  • An expected military offensive against al-Shabab forces to the south of Mogadishu - in the Afgooye corridor - could lead to a big new influx into the capital's already overcrowded camps and threatens those already seeking refuge in Afgooye. One local agency, SAACID, has already seen the number of cases of malnourished children in Mogadishu rise by a third in the past two months.
  • There are "signs of stabilisation" in the local economy in famine areas. Inflation of about 270% was a key factor triggering the famine but about 40% of aid is currently in the form of cash or food vouchers - a fact that often gets overlooked. The vouchers and money don't seem to have driven up inflation further, as some had feared, but instead are helping to shore up local markets and allow traders to play an important role in fighting the famine.
  • Al-Shabab bureaucracy and obstructionism remain a problem for aid organisations. But similar problems exist within the UN-backed government. There are reports that many senior al-Shabab officials have been sent to fight the Kenyans, leaving more junior people in charge of aid coordination efforts.
  • A key goal of the aid effort is to keep people in their homes. If they move to camps for more than six months, they are statistically very unlikely ever to return to their communities. That makes this planting season enormously important.
  • This is a long-term problem - and most people involved are profoundly frustrated by the lack of long-term funding for the sort of programmes that might help Somalis better to withstand the next drought.
 
Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    No one can break the Somali spirit no matter how much bad their situation is for southern Somalis. anyone who has Somali blood running in their veins no matter how many percentage will never accept peace without justice. these are two things you can not separate in the Somali psychic so too in ISLAM. Somalis will only accept peace when it comes with justice so they say i rather gun down than dum

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    The Somali struggle is your (all AFRICANS / all MUSLIMS / all MEN who believe equal rights, decency and fairness ) struggle too.
    if they ( US and it's allies ) allowed to keep preventing Somalis to run their own affairs in their own country. then you too have a problem.To be Somali is to be in charge your own affairs. but the US/A are desperate more then ever there is only two things OIL /REDSEA

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    rain is not the end product but a sign of hope, but more than rains Somalia needs a stable administrative entity. a body which can coordinate planting and counter water-borne diseases....for every death in Somalia out of famine or war the whole world must take the blame as we have stood still and silently watched Somalia slide into the state it is today

  • rate this
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    Comment number 12.

    just had gloomy conversation with another aid worker in nairobi - she warns that it may now be "too late" for 750,000 people at most risk. "We don't know if we'll be able to save them. The response (from the donors abroad) was too late. We're still not going even remotely at the appropriate speed." grim, numbing statistics. also concern that somalia's drought damaged soil can't absorb new rains.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

    Al-shaboob needs to be destroyed. Am not sure what people don't understand about this. They are worse than the Taliban, another group of radical thugs. The real story this week out of EA was the fake outrage by Ugandan minister coz UK will no longer grant aid to countries that want to hang gays. This just blows my mind, really? Am Kenyan and I say kudos to Cameron, finally showing some balls

  • rate this
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    Comment number 10.

    The Ethiopians were not dissuaded by the US experience in Somalia. They did not either learn much from their centuries-old wars with Somalis and with the help of the US air power, they too attacked and captured Mogadishu, but their victory did not last long and they were also compelled to a humiliating withdrawal after Somalis taught them a
    lesson in urban and guerrilla warfare

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    We counterpoise our genuine love for our Motherland Kenya to the fake nationalism of the warmongers.Our commitment to the freedom and emancipation of all Kenyans from neo-colonialism and imperialism preceded, and will outlast, these synthetic screeches covering up the local elite's attempt to be the slaves of Uncle Sam and her NATO cousins in this part of Africa and the world.peace without justice

  • rate this
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    Comment number 8.

    As our preening neo-colonial chieftains, who get their talking points from Washington, London ,Brussels and other capitals of the West in banging the drums of war. As Kenyan a sense of nausea and profound disgust.the hapless citizens (the Kenyans) are reduced to an abject bleating national choir of meek sheep endorsing every propaganda sound byte of the self-servingwe are just pawns inthe US/NATO

  • rate this
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    Comment number 7.

    the lives of million people who are suffering in southern Somalia are seen to be less important than 4 European lives and this has been the excuse that these people claimed for attacking southern Somalia and this supposedly to make us feel the invasion is justified. Even when we know Alshabaab are not the kidnappers. world full people who think they can keep insulting people's intelligence

    I

  • rate this
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    Comment number 6.

    US is using unmanned assassination drones in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen, & NOW Somalia. How long can this continue - until it's your country or mine? Washington claims that its drones are targeting militants, while civilians have been the main victims. Rights activists condemn the drone strikes as extra-judicial killings. Who can stop this long-distance blood-letting?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 5.

    It's raining not just water, but drones. Another US drone strike has claimed the lives of at least 28 civilians, while injuring dozens of others in southern Somalia - Town of Gilib. Meanwhile, other US drones also struck near the Balet Weyne Town in Hiiraan. Somalia is 6th country where US has conducted drone strikes; others include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq & Yemen.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 4.

    Why all the comments about the US? It's the international community trying to help, not just the US. When emergencies strike, most set aside their differences, Al-Shabaab refuse to do so, refuse to allow food aid in, refuse to allow vaccinations against preventable disease. Their ideology is trumping their reason ... maybe it's happening elsewhere, but not THIS badly!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    If US were serious about helping Somalia, it should be serious about diplomatic efforts, long-term solution. Lots of money has been spent on endeavors...But nothing has really changed. Current Kenyan military operations into Somalia (from Ethiopia with US drones) will worsen plight of drought victims. Al-Shabaab has waged 4-year campaign against UN & US-BACKED govt (which is viewed as corrupt).

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    There are @ 750,000 people needing help in Somalia or they are going to die - women, children, infants. US has done a very poor job of managing its own TFG interests vs humanitarian needs of the Somali people. US gave more money to Somalia in humanitarian assistance in 2008 when there was no famine, than in 2011 when there is a famine. The difference al-Shabaab CONTROL.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    US Govt seems defensive re accusations that it has politicized aid to victims of Somalia’s ongoing famine, as well as failed to help the long-term situation in the conflict-wracked country. US officials blame al-Shabaab for restricting outside aid. Is it realisticlly supposed that US drones attacking Al-Shabaab are helping the siuation?

 

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