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Somalia: food crisis subsides, but humanitarian needs remain acute

05-03-2012 Operational Update

Thanks to the combined impact of humanitarian aid and an ample crop harvest, the severe food crisis that prevailed over the past year is slowly subsiding. Nevertheless, humanitarian needs remain acute. The ICRC assisted almost 2.5 million people in Somalia in 2011.

Because of the failure of seasonal rains, Somalia has been in the grip of a severe drought that started in October 2010 and had dramatic humanitarian consequences in 2011. Nearly two decades of conflict, poor security conditions and widespread lawlessness continue to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the country. The combined effects of recurring man-made and natural disasters have resulted in severe food insecurity and high malnutrition rates in many areas.

In order to address the crisis and avoid further displacement of thousands of people, the ICRC stepped up its operations in the central and southern parts of the country in 2011. In addition to conducting medium- and long-term activities, the organization launched an emergency relief operation in August 2011 to address the most urgent food needs of 1.1 million people. The ICRC remains fully committed to helping Somalis overcome recurrent humanitarian crises, improve their livelihoods and enhance their access to health care, as it has done for the past 30 years.

A summary of the ICRC's activities in Somalia in 2011

  • In partnership with the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS), the ICRC provided rice, oil and beans for more than 1,200,000 people, 124,000 of whom also received a second one-month food ration.
  • In July and August, the Somali Red Crescent, with the support of the ICRC, opened 13 new outpatient therapeutic feeding programmes (in addition to the 14 that were already under way) and set up 12 mobile health teams, which treated over 48,000 severely malnourished children and over 25,000 pregnant and lactating women. In the second half of the year, more than 120,000 children with moderate malnutrition and their caregivers attended the ICRC wet-feeding sites in the most affected areas in southern Somalia.
  • Since January 2011, the ICRC has distributed such household essentials as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen items and clothing to over 350,000 people newly displaced by the conflict or drought all over the country. In addition, Somali Red Crescent clinics have given out 70,000 mosquito nets in the most malaria-prone areas.

ICRC in Somalia – 2011 key figures

Food distributions: over 1.2 million beneficiaries

Livelihood support projects: up to 750,000 beneficiaries

Water projects: up to 900,000 beneficiaries

Weapon-wounded patients treated: almost 6,000

Primary health care beneficiaries: more than 725,000

Malnourished children treated: 170,000

RCMs collected: almost 8,000

RCMs distributed: over 16,700

Phone calls made from Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya to restore family links: almost 38,000

Total ICRC beneficiaries in 2011: about 2,500,000

Restoring people's livelihoods

  • Nearly 55,000 farmers and their families received seed and tools in 2011 to boost food production, and 10,000 farmers received seed to boost fodder production. The ICRC also helped almost 8,500 people in the Middle Shabelle region by upgrading their farmland. Each farm was provided with agricultural inputs, such as seed, fertilizer, pumps and agricultural tools, and with services such as the upgrading of irrigation channels or ploughing.
  • To mitigate the effects of erratic rainfall and subsequent flooding, and to boost self-sufficiency among the farming population along the Shabelle and Juba Rivers, approximately 310,000 people received sandbags to protect farmland against flooding, or benefited from the construction of dikes. In addition, the ICRC supplied 149 irrigation pumps to serve over 7,000 people, and provided upgrades in sluice gates along the Shabelle River that enabled almost 6,000 people to irrigate their land.
  • Some 1,000 fishermen received fishing equipment and training in fishing techniques.
  • Nearly 24,000 people earned enough cash to cover their food needs for up to six weeks while participating in 41 cash-for-work projects.
  • Almost 600 women-headed households (around 3,600 people) received ICRC grants to set up small businesses, such as tea kiosks, sewing services, bakeries and milling services that enabled them to generate an income.

Improving access to safe water for up to 900,000 people

Following the failure of the deyr seasonal rains in early 2011, a two-month water-trucking operation was carried out in 11 areas for some 700,000 residents and herders and their livestock. The ICRC also renovated and repaired 55 water-supply facilities to improve groundwater sources (wells and boreholes) and surface water storage (water reservoirs and rainwater catchments). These activities have helped an additional 200,000 people to maintain access to clean water.

Treatment for 6,000 weapon-wounded patients

The ICRC supports two surgical referral hospitals in Mogadishu: Keysaney Hospital, run by the Somali Red Crescent, and the community-based Medina Hospital. In 2011, the ICRC built a new operating theatre in Keysaney Hospital and performed maintenance work in both hospitals. Keysaney and Medina hospitals accept patients from all backgrounds, regardless of their clan, religion or political convictions. Among the almost 4,000 wounded patients admitted in 2011 were over 1,300 women and 500 children. During the same period, the ICRC provided first-aid posts and other facilities with basic wound-dressing materials and other medical supplies for the treatment of almost 2,000 weapon-wounded patients.

Basic health care for over 725,000 people

In 2011 the ICRC upgraded or built three primary health-care facilities and opened two new clinics for the Somali Red Crescent, bringing the total number of health-care facilities it supports in central and southern Somalia to 39. These facilities help ensure that the population has access to essential health care and to quality drugs. More than 725,000 people used these services in 2011. The ICRC also provided the Somali Red Crescent facilities with equipment and training for their staff.

In response to the drought and the ensuing increased incidence of disease, the ICRC also decided to support 12 additional mobile health teams addressing basic health needs and referring malnourished children and their mothers to the closest stabilization centres. The ICRC also provided support for over 200 Somali Red Crescent volunteers promoting good hygiene practices as a means of preventing the spread of water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea in five regions of central and southern Somalia.

Restoring family links within and outside Somalia

Another important part of the ICRC’s work is to restore and maintain contact between family members separated by conflict. Working with the Somali Red Crescent, the ICRC collected almost 8,000 Red Cross messages (RCMs), many from outside the country, and distributed over 16,700 in 2011. Almost 5,000 names of people being sought were broadcast by the BBC's Somali-language service and more than 13,000 were published on its website. A total of 254 people were located at the request of their relatives. The ICRC delegation also issued 162 travel documents to refugees from Somalia for resettlement purposes.

To respond to the need of newly arriving Somali refugees in Kenya to restore or maintain contact with family members, the Kenya Red Cross Society and the ICRC provided mobile phone services in the Dadaab refugee camp close to the border so that new arrivals would be able to contact their relatives quickly. Between August and the end of 2011, almost 38,000 telephone calls, including over 4,700 by minors, were made to relatives in Somalia and elsewhere in the world.

Cooperation with the Somali Red Crescent Society

The Somali Red Crescent is the main operational partner of the ICRC in Somalia. Together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and several National Societies, the ICRC works to strengthen the operational capacity of the Somali Red Crescent, particularly in the fields of health, restoring family links, dissemination of humanitarian values and disaster management. Through its network of 19 branches scattered throughout the entire country, the Somali Red Crescent provides essential community services ranging from first aid, mother-and-child health care, disease prevention and physical rehabilitation to restoring ties between family members separated because of the conflict or the general lack of security in Somalia. In coordination with the ICRC, the Somali Red Crescent spreads knowledge of the basic rules of international humanitarian law among various audiences in Somalia.

Promoting international humanitarian law

Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s effort to promote compliance with international humanitarian law worldwide. The organization also informs weapon bearers of their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding the conduct of hostilities. In addition, the ICRC spreads knowledge of humanitarian values and principles within civil society. In Somalia, the ICRC promotes these values and principles by referring to the Somali tradition of biri ma gedo ("spared from the spear"), which recognizes women, children, the wounded, the sick and certain others as protected against attack.


Photos

Somalia, Puntland, Garowe camp. Portrait of a woman and her child in a camp for the internally displaced. Over a thousand families have arrived in Garowe from Mogadishu over the last months. 

Somalia, Puntland, Garowe camp. Portrait of a woman and her child in a camp for the internally displaced. Over a thousand families have arrived in Garowe from Mogadishu over the last months.
© Norwegian Red Cross / Olav Saltbones / so-e-00554

Somalia. Mudug Region, Harfo. A child suffering from malnutrition is treated at a clinic run by the Somali Red Crescent Society. 

Somalia. Mudug Region, Harfo. A child suffering from malnutrition is treated at a clinic run by the Somali Red Crescent Society.
© ICRC / Olav Saltbones / so-e-00567

Southern Somalia. Middle Juba region, Jilib district. Female beneficiaries of a food distribution at a camp for the displaced. Each woman, head of family, resident or internally displaced person sits on a pile consisting of enough food rations to last a month. 

Southern Somalia. Middle Juba region, Jilib district. Female beneficiaries of a food distribution at a camp for the displaced. Each woman, head of family, resident or internally displaced person sits on a pile consisting of enough food rations to last a month.
© ICRC / I. Abdullahi / so-e-00616

Somalia. Gedo Region, Burdhubo. The ICRC prepares a food distribution with the support of Somali Red Crescent Society volunteers. 

Somalia. Gedo Region, Burdhubo. The ICRC prepares a food distribution with the support of Somali Red Crescent Society volunteers.
© ICRC / M. Omar Ali / so-e-00621

Somalia. Mudug Region, Galkayo. A toddler learns to walk with her new prosthesis at a rehabilitation centre run by the Somali Red Crescent Society. 

Somalia. Mudug Region, Galkayo. A toddler learns to walk with her new prosthesis at a rehabilitation centre run by the Somali Red Crescent Society.
© Norwegian Red Cross / Olav Saltbones / so-e-00574

Somalia. Gedo Region, Lakeley. A traditional makeshift shelter (toucoul) for displaced people. Most of the people fled the drought and come from the Bay and Bakool regions. 

Somalia. Gedo Region, Lakeley. A traditional makeshift shelter (toucoul) for displaced people. Most of the people fled the drought and come from the Bay and Bakool regions.
© ICRC / Y. Van Loo / so-e-00635

Somalia. Mudug Region, camp for the internally displaced near Galkayo town. A child being treated at a health clinic run by Somali Red Crescent Society. 

Somalia. Mudug Region, camp for the internally displaced near Galkayo town. A child being treated at a health clinic run by Somali Red Crescent Society.
© Norwegian Red Cross / Olav Saltbones / so-e-00588

Abudwaq, Galgaduud region, Somalia, August 2011. Hilary Floate, ICRC nutritionist for Somalia, performs the  

Abudwaq, Galgaduud region, Somalia, August 2011. Hilary Floate, ICRC nutritionist for Somalia, performs the "press test" to see if a child suffers from oedema.
© ICRC / Halani / SO-E-00612