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Update No. 99/02 on ICRC activities in Somalia

28-05-1999 Operational Update No 99/02

 General situation  

The last two months have witnessed a steady deterioration in the security situation in the south of the country. Fighting between clans and sub-clans in Lower and Middle Juba, Gedo, Bay, Bakol and Hiran regions has continued to wreak havoc in towns and villages in these parts and triggered population movements. Lower Juba was particularly tense following the killing of an American aid worker in Raskamboni (Badade district) at the end of March and heavy fighting ensued between a number of local clans. Although the humanitarian consequences of this ongoing violence are as yet unknown, movements of displaced people are expected. This incident was followed by the kidnapping of an aid worker from an Italian NGO in Hagar in mid-April, who was eventually released some four weeks later.

Once again Kismayo has been the scene of inter-clan fighting for control of the city and in the last two months the situation in Mogadishu has also degenerated considerably, with outbreaks of armed violence resulting in more than one hundred victims and over 200 people wounded. The weakening of the leadership on both sides of the city, together with the recent collapse of the Benadir administration and the disbanding of the Benadir police force due to lack of funds, signify a severe setback for the local population.

The south of the country continued to be adversely affected by the lack of rain and the failure of the " Deyr " season, particularly in the Bay and Bakool regions, which caused large population move ments into Lower Shabelle. In the central regions, nomads found themselves trapped without access to water sources. Water shortages and a progressive scarcity of grazing land created a huge problem for tens of thousands of nomads who consequently lost much of their livestock.

At the end of April the rains returned, offering hope that grazing areas would be restored and that the nomads would be able to return to a normal life. However, at this stage the mid-term impact of the drought is unforeseeable. From the farmers'perspective, a good " Gu " harvest is predicted, especially in the southern part of the country where the rains started.

 Other humanitarian organizations  


Of the humanitarian actors present in Somalia, specific mention must be made of a number of specialized UN agencies (UNDP, WFP, FAO, UNICEF), the European Commission and a number of international NGOs. However, whilst the international community is active in the north-east and in Somaliland, the constant insecurity and difficult working conditions have driven the major humanitarian players out of the most-affected areas. Most implementing agencies that have projects in these geographically limited areas are co-ordinated by the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB).

In order to define and pursue closely co-ordinated programmes in Somalia within the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, regular meetings have been held in Nairobi between the SRCS, the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

 Recent ICRC field activities  

The ICRC's two-pronged approach, offeri ng both an emergency response to the direct effects of conflicts combined with natural disasters (including medical assistance for the war-wounded, water distribution, emergency repairs to bore holes in drought-stricken areas and non-food assistance) and a medium-term response designed to maintain local coping mechanisms and preserve basic living conditions of specific target groups, has remained unchanged since the beginning of 1999. At this time, the ICRC took the decision to increase field activities using a limited expatriate presence, maintaining vital lifesaving activities in Somalia centering on medical assistance, implemented nationwide through the Somali Red Crescent (SRCS) and ICRC Somali field officers.


 People deprived of their freedom  

On April 9, prisoners from Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) and Somali National Front/Somali National Alliance (SNF/SNA) forces, who had been captured during fighting in December 1998 and January 1999, were exchanged at Madamhato, close to Kismayo. The SPM handed over 19 prisoners, while the SNF and SNA released 10 prisoners in the presence of an ICRC representative who was on hand to facilitate the process.


 Health services  

In Hiran, Galgadud and Lower Juba, the ICRC has been supporting 14 out-patient department clinics (OPDs) for the civilian population in collaboration with the SRCS, carrying out an average of 23,000 consultations per month. The two OPDs in Galgadud also provide mother and child health (MCH) activities. In April the ICRC took over six O PD/MCHs in Kismayo previously supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. These clinics cover a catchment population of 227,000 people and average a total of 12,500 monthly consultations. All of the clinics are run by the SRCS, whilst the ICRC provides support, supplies materials and monitors statistics.

In Gududay the ICRC has been assisting a community-based health programme in ten villages focusing on preventive medical activities. Oral rehydration salts (ORS), soap and dressing sets have been provided and a deworming campaign is now under preparation. In the majority of these villages, a positive impact of this support can be seen by the eradication of scabies, which is no longer a problem for local people.

Following an outbreak of cholera in Jilib and Qamsuma in March/April, the ICRC provided 3,000 ORS sachets and 800 litres of ringer lactate to treat patients.

The ICRC has continued to offer material and financial support to the 90-bed Keysaney Hospital in north Mogadishu . The hospital has a 100% occupancy rate, with an average of 400 admissions each month. In March a total of 195 war-wounded were admitted and a further 128 were admitted in April. Gunshot wounds have been the most common injuries, together with a small number of mine and shell injuries.

Support has also been accorded for surgical activities in Galkayo Hospital , with MSF Holland helping with non-surgical activities. In March a total of 72 war-wounded patients were admitted to the hospital and 48 operations were carried out.

In order to be able to provide an immediate response for war-wounded victims in Somalia, the ICRC has begun to pre-position medical stock in south Mogadishu . From there, supplies can be flown from Balidogle airport throughout the south of the country. For example, following recent fighting in Luuq (Gedo region), a plane was sent from Balidogle to Bardera, from where medical items were transported by road, enabling the assistance to reach the war-wounded in an extremely short space of time.

 Water and habitat  

In Mudug, Nugal and Galgadud regions, some 10,000 nomad families have been suffering from a serious water shortage due to failed rains. The extreme severity of the situation has been clearly evident from the death of livestock and the loss of human life. Traditional water storage reservoirs (birkads) had also become depleted and cracked. In response the ICRC implemented an emergency water trucking operation in the middle of March to 205 locations in Mudug, Nugal and Galgadud regions. An average of 700 trucks per week, each carrying 10,000 litres, distributed clean water to these 10,000 nomad families over a five-week period. Extremely positive feedback has been received from the beneficiaries of this operation. The operation was also particularly timely as the rains began just as the water-trucking operation came to an end. Some 8,000 bags of cement were also distributed to 100 locations to repair around 800 birkads which had been damaged by the drought. The ICRC replaced the generator of the only functioning bore hole in a village north of Galkayo in order to maintain the water supply to the village and surrounding areas. 

 Badade in Lower Juba also suffered from a severe water shortage proble m. To combat the drastic effects, a water-trucking operation was conducted over three weeks, making two trips per week to the area.

Over the last two months four shallow wells have been renovated with the full co-operation of the local communities in Merca , Lower Shabelle, who provided the manpower, enabling them to have continuous access to clean water.

In mid-May, the ICRC provided 10,000 families displaced from Bay and Bakool who had subsequently arrived in North and South Mogadishu with shelter material in order to improve their basic housing facilities during the rainy season.

Following fighting in the district of Sako (Middle Juba), houses and shops belonging to members of the local clans were burned and looted, leading to large-scale population displacements. The ICRC assisted with a distribution of non-food items (shelter, clothing and cooking sets) for 6,000 families from the two clans involved in the clashes.

 Economic security  

In March a seed distribution programme was initiated targeting some 31,000 farming families in Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba, Hiran, Bay, Bakool and Lower and Middle Shabelle regions. The distribution was carried out before the current " Gu " (main rainy season) for farmers in rain-fed areas affected by the two previous harvest failures. Each farmer received 10 kg of sorghum and 2 kg of cow pea seeds. If there is sufficient rainfall, the prospect for a successful harvest is good and farmers have given positive feedback regarding the timing of the distribution and the quality of the seeds. At present, access to sufficient amounts of wild fruit and vegetables has been guaranteed, ensuring the farmers'survival. However, by the beginning of July coping mechanisms could be exhausted and the farmers'situation may once again become precarious until the next harvest in August. The ICRC will therefore continue to closely monitor the food situation of these farmers.

 Ongoing ICRC/SRCS activities  

The ICRC continues to provide support to the National Society for its ongoing traditional activities, such as health (first aid and surgical assistance to medical facilities treating the war-wounded and support to SRCS-run primary health care facilities), tracing, dissemination and emergency-preparedness programmes.

The ICRC Somalia delegation in Nairobi is currently staffed by eight expatriates and 16 locally-hired staff. Links with the field are maintained through expatriate field trips, with activities implemented countrywide through the SRCS and ICRC Somali field officers.