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Somalia: concern over worsening humanitarian situation

11-03-2008 Operational Update

While the media’s attention has been riveted on other crises in Africa in recent weeks, the humanitarian situation in Somalia has continued to deteriorate alarmingly

The protracted armed conflict has been intensified by waves of heavy fighting, not only in the capital city of Mogadishu but also elsewhere in the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Their situation has been exacerbated by a chronic lack of rainfall. The cost of living has risen so steeply that many people cannot afford to buy food and other essential items.

ICRC assessment teams report that in several regions large numbers of displaced families are having to survive on something less than one meal a day and to spend increasing proportions of their meagre income to buy drinking water. Shortages of food and water have become life-threatening in the regions of Mudug, Galgadud, Nugaal and Bakool, and elsewhere. In certain parts of the country the population is entirely dependent on animal breeding and trading. But pastures there have become barren in many places, and herders are losing animals that have become too weak to walk the lengthening distances between fresh pastures and scarce water points. In those regions where many families rely mainly on agriculture, such as Bakool, poor harvests caused by two years of very limited rainfall have created immense suffering. 

  Living conditions  

" We visited places where the displaced population had little food and scarcely any possessions, " said Daniel Gagnon, an ICRC relief specialist in Somalia. " People told us that the shelling in Mogadishu was so intense that they had fled leaving even the most necessary personal items behind. "

Two months ago, 3,500 families arr ived in Guriel, 300 km from Mogadishu. " These families are enduring the extremities of suffering. The living conditions are shocking, " Mr Gagnon said. " In some places, food, water, essential household items, and sanitation facilities are scarce or non-existent. "

In the Mudug region, all the communities visited by ICRC teams had lost their basic means of sustaining themselves. The local economy is based on herding and agriculture and most of the residents are living from hand to mouth each day. " There is a severe drought in the area, which has not had adequate rainfall for the last three years, " explained Julian Jones, the ICRC's water and habitat coordinator for Somalia. " The combination of acute water scarcity and pastures beyond their reach means that people can do little more than hope for rain. "

Some communities are also struggling with the task of giving refuge to the large and growing numbers of displaced families fleeing the armed conflict in Mogadishu. In parts of Bakool, as a result of the prolonged drought, farmers are living in dire poverty. " After an entire year of struggle, coping mechanisms have reached their limits, " said Henri Maindiaux, the ICRC’s agricultural specialist for Somalia. " Water, in addition to food, is becoming a major worry. "

  Health care for displaced families in Afgoy and Daynile  

Large numbers of displaced families from Mogadishu are living only a few kilometres away from the city. " In the districts of Afgoy and Daynile, people are worried about an increase in illnesses and disease, such as diarrhoea and malaria. And there is nowhere for them to go for appropriate treatment because it's too dangerous in Mogadishu, " said Rodolfo Rossi, the ICRC's medical delegate for Somalia.

Duri ng the first two months of 2008 the ICRC assisted the Somali Red Crescent Society in opening three temporary clinics in Afgoy and one in Daynile. The three Afgoy clinics give an average of 130 consultations a day; the Daynile clinic treats 70 patients a day. The Somali Red Crescent, with the support of the ICRC, runs 25 clinics in central and southern Somalia, which serve 260,000 people. Since January, these clinics have provided almost 18,000 consultations.

  Treatment of wounded in Mogadishu  

The high number of weapon-related injuries in Mogadishu remains a source of great concern to the ICRC. Every day, surgical teams in the two main hospitals, Medina and Keysaney, treat dozens of people wounded by shrapnel and bullets. The ICRC continues to provide extensive assistance to these referral hospitals.

Since the beginning of 2008, the Keysaney and Medina hospitals have treated over 600 wounded, among them 350 women and children. In 2007, these two hospitals treated more than 4,000 wounded.

Since August 2007, a surgical team from the Qatar Red Crescent Society has been working at the Keysaney hospital, which is managed by the Somali Red Crescent. The two surgeons from the Qatar Red Crescent perform about 120 operations every month. They also organize training sessions for the medical staff.

  Call to spare civilians  

The ICRC has repeatedly reminded the parties to the conflict to take every feasible precaution to avoid causing injuries or loss of life among civilians and to prevent damage to civilian property.

Deeply concerned about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the worse ning of the security environment, the ICRC has, since January, stepped up its humanitarian operations in the country. " It is essential that humanitarian relief personnel, as well as humanitarian and medical supplies, are respected and protected, " said Pascal Hundt, the head of the ICRC’s delegation for Somalia.

In addition to its emergency and medical programmes, the ICRC continues to carry out activities such as building and repairing water-supply systems, conducting agricultural and livelihood projects, handling Red Cross messages and restoring family links in various parts of the country. Present in Somalia since 1977, the ICRC, working in close cooperation with the Somali Red Crescent, remains a key provider of emergency aid to the victims of armed conflict and natural disasters.

  Overview of assistance  

Since January 2008, the ICRC has

  • airlifted about 16 tonnes of medical and surgical supplies to hospitals in Mogadishu;

  • sent five tonnes of medical supplies to 25 Somali Red Crescent medical facilities in the central and southern regions of the country;

  • provided the Boroma and Bossaso hospitals with about 3.5 tonnes of medical and surgical materials for the treatment of war-wounded.

Since mid-February 2008, the ICRC has provided:

  • two months of food rations - rice, beans and vegetable oil - to over 22,000 vulnerable and destitute people in northern Mudug and parts of Nugaal, and to more than 27,000 people in southern Sool;

  • complete sets of household items - shelter material, kitchen sets, clothes for adults and children, mats, blankets and jerrycans - to almost 155,000 people in the Mudug and Galgadud regions, the El Dere area, Daynile (on the outskirts of Mogadishu), Medina (in Mogadishu) and the Middle Shabelle region.

In addition, every day two million litres of water are transported by road and distributed to 350,000 people in the Mudug, northern Bakool, eastern Bay and Galgadud regions.

  For further information, please contact:
  Pedram Yazdi, ICRC Somalia, tel: +254 20 272 3963 or +254 722 518 142
  Bernard Barrett, ICRC Nairobi , tel: + 254 20 272 3963 or + 254 722 512 728
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 22 730 2271 or + 41 79 217 3217