Turkey - Somalia aid pioneers?

Women queue for Turkish Red Crescent aid using their Red Crescent IDs

Somalia remains a notoriously hard place to help.

But on a windswept hilltop along the coast a few miles south of the capital, Mogadishu, a giant, almost ludicrously neat, brand new tented camp for displaced families stands as a monument to what foreigners can achieve here with the right approach.

"We've had no security problems yet," said Alper Kucuk, deputy head of the Turkish Red Crescent delegation to Somalia, as we toured the camp surrounded by our own guards and a contingent of soldiers provided by the local administration.

"We have 2,100 tents for 12,000 people. Somalis treat us like their family and we are sure that anyone who has the willingness to do something for them will be very welcome," said Mr Kucuk.

Start Quote

The Turkish aid is setting a lot of pace ”

End Quote Killian Kleinschmidt UN official in Somalia

In the months since the militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, was finally pushed out of the city by African Union soldiers Turkey has emerged as the most visible foreign presence in Mogadishu - if you discount the green armoured cars belonging to the AU force (Amisom), which still growl their way through the busy streets.

While most foreign organisations remain cooped up at the heavily guarded Amisom base by the airport, some 200 Turkish nationals are now living and working in the city on a variety of projects, ranging from construction to logistics and aid.

"They are our brothers" is a common reaction from Somalis when the Turkish are mentioned.

"While some talk, they act," was how a man called Aden put it to me.

He said he had recently returned from Canada to help the reconstruction of Somalia.

So why aren't other countries, or the United Nations, more active, and is it fair to criticise organisations for taking big security precautions, given the number of aid workers who have been killed in Somalia over the years?

"They could do more," said Mr Kucuk simply.

Boots-on-the-ground approach

The UK's new ambassador to Somalia, Matt Baugh, still based in neighbouring Kenya, acknowledged that "the Turkish have shown what it is possible to do operationally".

"They've brought a really strong political force to bear. They're intimately involved - a real force."

Turkey's boots-on-the-ground approach is having something of a catalytic effect on the aid community.

"The Turkish aid is setting a lot of pace," said Killian Kleinschmidt, the UN's deputy humanitarian co-ordinator in Somalia.

He acknowledged that organisations with Islamic backgrounds "can move better than we can".

"It's a constant challenge for all of us to adapt [to the changing security situation]," he said.

"We are now making dramatic steps in recent days to enhance our mobility. Some organisations are slow. Some are faster."

The humanitarian needs here remain considerable, with hundreds of thousands of people dependent on outside aid and living, in Mr Kleinschmidt's words, "just above survival".

The improved security environment in Mogadishu is an opportunity to be seized, but the toughest challenge remains to find ways to reach out to those suffering outside the capital, in areas still under the control of al-Shabab.

Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

What MPs' scuffles reveal about South Africa's democracy

Parliamentary scuffles and trade union splits have upset South Africa's political status quo, writes the BBC's Andrew Harding.

Read full article

More on This Story

Somalia: Failed State


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    @DavidinUSA. it doesn't add up b/c you believe almost everything you read and hear w/o understanding the politics surrounding and within Turkey. Turkey(mostly secularists) have in the past have neglected the Kurds for decades and this is changing. Yes I'm sure you can point to some examples today of brutality but "the few dont represent the many" and nor would your few examples represent Turkey.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    It sounds like Turkey's government operates same as David Cameron's & Nick Clegg's - they all spend too much time trying to solve problems for other countries and ignore the problems in their own !

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    What is in essence a positive story about man's kindness to fellow man has been used to make anti Turkish statements, from Turks sending out of date medicines, to unfounded comments about Turks receiving billions of pounds in aid, to Turkish mistreatment of Kurds and support anti Israel organisations..all of which are either unfounded or biased one sided bigoted claptrap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Definitely a respectable showing by Turkish organizations and government. Below is a link to the Turkish Red Crescent for anyone looking to learn more / support.


  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It is great to see Turkish (indeed, any) humitarian aid. But I am disturbed when I think of the way in which Turkey treats some of its own people - notably the Kurds. Shouldn't charitable ventures start at home? Can torture and extra-judicial killings at home co-exist with a PR exercise in Africa? Not to mention support to anti-Israel terrorists. It doesn't add up.


Comments 5 of 13



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.