Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Cape Town drought: Mayor says residents 'callously' using too much water

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Why are some US firms announcing losses from Trump's tax reforms?

Read more

THE DEBATE

'Entente cordiale', but at what cost on the road to Brexit?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Bye-EU Tapestry is not to all tastes

Read more

THE POLITICAL BRIEF

Maverick Mélenchon: French far-left launches its own web TV

Read more

FOCUS

Rise of sandstorms plagues Middle East

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Superjumbo travel: Discussing the future of the A380

Read more

ACCESS ASIA

Fighting unemployment: Millions of Indians face layoffs amid shrinking job market

Read more

FRENCH CONNECTIONS

Deneuve vs. #MeToo: Exploring feminism 'à la française'

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2011-08-29

Somalia: hungry in a war zone

Somalia is suffering the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world today, according to the UN. The population is forced to flee famine-stricken provinces. Some choose to seek help in Mogadishu, a war-torn city where humanitarian organisations are facing huge difficulties to help them.

Nearly 100,000 refugees have arrived since January. They live around Mogadishu in makeshift huts made of branches and rags. All have emaciated faces, with glazed expressions, washed out by hunger and endless days of walking under a blazing sun.


They all tell the same story: farms made barren by the worst drought in 60 years, animals starving to death one after the other, humanitarian aid blocked by Al-Shabaab, the first deaths in the village. And then the decision to abandon everything, and to flee on an empty stomach to avoid starvation.


In Mogadishu, they thought they would find help; food distribution, and a real chance to find a new life. However, more often, there is nothing, except for the daily violence of a city which has been plagued by civil war for over 20 years.


Mogadishu is hell. It is one of the most dangerous places on Earth where gunmen belonging to rival clans clash in the streets with assault rifles, for just a few bags of grain. In this context, humanitarian agencies are struggling to operate.


Gunmen cause havoc in camps


The warehouses of the World Food Programme (WFP) are full. Boxes of medicine and food are being unloaded all day long at the airport. The problem is distributing the aid. On the 5th of August, a large distribution of dry food was organised, but it ended in a gunfight. Several refugees where killed and the attackers left with truckloads of food.

In Mogadishu, foreign aid workers are targets, as food is a valuable commodity. The only solution is to rely on local partners who themselves take great risks to ensure that aid reaches those in need.


When aid distribution finally occurs, the beneficiaries themselves can find themsleves being attacked. In Badbado camp, many displaced told us they were forced to hand over the food they had been given to armed men. The camps have grown so rapidly they have become uncontrollable: insecurity is all-invasive.


The only solution humanitarian agencies have found to avoid violence is so-called “wet feeding”. The idea is to distribute cooked food. The refugees are given a meal that is ready to eat and has almost no market value. The problem is that they have to return every day and queue for hours to feed their families.


Al-Shabaab withdraw, violence remains


On the 6th of August, Al-Shabaab radical Islamist insurgents withdrew from Mogadishu. Up to that point, the fighting had been almost daily between them and the forces loyal to the Transitional Federal Government which is recognised by the international community.


Since then, soldiers of the Somali army, and AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping force, have been deployed in former Al-Shabaab strongholds. With this withdrawal, the humanitarian organisations hope to intensify their programmes. But the city still isn’t safe. Pockets of insurgency are still hiding in some neighbourhoods and Al-Shabaab have announced that they are operating a tactical retreat, and that they intend to change their strategy, most probably shifting to terrorist guerrilla tactics. If they carry out their threats, Mogadishu could become a city even more dangerous than when the frontlines were clearly defined.


Famine has already killed tens of thousands of people in Somalia. According to the FAO, 3.7 million people are in crisis across the country, and 3.2 million are in need of immediate help to survive.

By James ANDRE

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2018-01-11 Americas

Video: Inside the deadly US opioid crisis

Opioids kill more people than they cure. Every day in the United States, some 140 people die from taking opioids - addictive opiate-based drugs. They’ve become the leading cause...

Read more

2017-12-20 Africa

Egypt's Coptic Christians live in fear of Islamist attacks

Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been the target of unprecedented attacks since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. The election of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012 saw an upsurge with...

Read more

2017-12-15 Africa

Exclusive video: South Sudan, a cursed land

For the past four years South Sudan has been torn apart by civil war – and the situation in the country is desperate. Famine rages across all conflict zones and the first victims...

Read more

2017-12-08 Libya

Video: Trapped in Libya, migrants face torture and slavery

In the past few months, the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean has shrunk drastically on the back of new migrant policies in Libya and Italy alike. Instead,...

Read more

2017-11-30 Americas

Video: Barbuda, an island paradise wiped out by Hurricane Irma

Three months ago, life on the Caribbean island of Barbuda, in the French West Indies, morphed into nothing short of a nightmare as Hurricane Irma swept in over its shores,...

Read more