Somalia: reputation opening doors to strong-hold areas

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

  • 16558CP_D_017.jpgAid worker Catherine Wanjiku distributes rice provided by ACT at Al-Hidaaya camp where a total of 125 refugee families live. ACT is distributing water, food, drugs and tarpaulin sheeting in the camp near Mogadishu. ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner
  • 16558CP_D_019.jpgRefugees arrive in Mogadishu after walking for several weeks, avoiding the main roads for fear of attacks by militia and gangs. ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner
  • 16558CP_D_028.jpgA woman stands amid tents in a refugee camp near Mogadishu, having walked for several weeks, sleeping at the homes of people on the way. ACT has provided food, water, shelter and sanitation to the new arrivals. ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner
  • 16558CP_D_029.jpgDoctors at Mogadishu's Madina hospital treat a man who was shot in the foot. Refugees have arrived at the ACT-supported hospital malnourished, dehydrated and injured from travelling through regions dominated by militia and gangs. ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner
  • 16558CP_D_036.jpgA severely malnourished infant with receives intravenous treatment in the ACT-supported Banadir hospital, Mogadishu. ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner
  • 16558CP_D_037.jpgA mother and a grandmother arrive at Mogadishu's Banadir Hospital with severly malnourished four-year-old Mohamed Hussein. ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner
  • 16558CP_D_040.jpgSoldier in Bakara near Mogadishu ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner
  • 16558CP_D_042.jpgA severely malnourished child receives intravenous treatment in the Banadir hospital, Mogadishu. Families walked for weeks to the ACT-supported hospital. Some children and elderly died en route. ACT/DKH/Christoph Pueschner

By Rainer Lang

Doctor Lul Mohamud Mohamed stands in front of the bed of Ahmed Aden. Hunger has left its marks on the body of the two year old Somalian boy who weighs only 8kg, well under the 12kg he should weigh in at. Aden is suffering the severest case of malnutrition. Ironically, his legs are horribly swollen with oedema.

Dr Mohamed works with other doctors voluntarily in a clinic in the Somalian capital Mogadishu, where hundreds of people arrive daily, fleeing the drought-stricken areas.

Each day, the hospital takes in around 100 children, at least 30 of whom are severely malnourished. And every day, children die. The hospital lacks even the basics - no high nutrient milk and no feeding tubes. Its medicine cupboards sit largely empty. ACT member Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe is preparing to send medicine and special baby food in the coming days.

But outside the hospital, greater need exists in the form of refugees settling in the ruins of the capital. Mogadishu has been destroyed by civil war which has raged for two decades. People fleeing the drought now add to the numerous families fleeing the fighting. The new refugees have to live in makeshift homes, with barely any food, water, sanitation or medical treatment.

DKH has started distributing cooked meals and two-month food packs of rice, beans and cooking oil to families. It will also provide plastic sheets and mosquito nets. Drinking water is coming from water tanks. DKH plans to drill deep water holes to provide fresh water to thousands of people.

Local knowledge, local respect

In rural Gulguduud, near the Ethiopia border, and in Lower Shebelle, once the nation's breadbasket, DKH's partner is recognised as a neutral organisation that has the ability to work in both areas controlled by the transitional government and by Al Shabaab groups. "We engaged both parties and convinced them of our neutral stand," says Omar Olad Ahmed, the director of DKH partner Daryeel Busho Guud (Help for all). "This was not easy, but as a local organisation we know well the local leaders of the parties and could convince them."

Despite his country being in a state of civil war, Omar is determined to stay in Somalia. "I feel delighted and committed to work in the country as an aid worker." Daryeel Busho Guud wants to support people in rural areas in order that they do not have to flee to Mogadishu.

People leave only when their last food has gone. For some, they leave too late. Quite a number, especially small children, die soon after arriving in Mogadishu. Their bodies are simply unable to hold any food at all.

Sharifo Sheikh, a mother of three, lost her son. Twelve year old Ibrahim died of hunger at home. Then Sharifo left her village with her two daughters. After a long journey, they were able to finally enjoy a warm meal - that even had meat - supplied by DKH. "It is a huge present for us," she says. For two days, they had had only tea to drink.

People arrive in Mogadishu desperate. Faduma Aden Einu, for example. She is sitting beside her grandchild. The parents of the child are begging for food in the streets of Mogadishu. But while Somalians have great solidarity for their compatriots, most do not have enough food for themselves.

However, they try to support the new arrivals as much as they can. In a compelling example of generosity, the staff of Daryeel Busho Guud donated half of their July salary to support people who had to flee the drought.