Entries tagged with “Mogadishu”.


There hasn’t been a lot of good news coming out of Somalia lately as aid groups are contemplating pulling out their staff due to several aid workers being killed. Recently three elders were killed while distributing aid in a refugee camp outside Mogadishu.

Here are some stats provided in a recent e-mail from UNICEF’s USA Fund:

  • More than 100,000 displaced persons in Afgoye receive safe drinking water from UNICEF—over half a million liters a day.
  • One in six persons displaced from the capitol, Mogadishu, is a child under five, and UNICEF is there providing lifesaving, nutritious meals.
  • UNICEF provides aid to more than 40,000 persons west of Mogadishu, where the start of the rainy season has forced many families to crowd tiny shelters too small to lie down to sleep.

UNICEF is one of the few organizations working in this war torn country. You can read more about their work and hear from Clay Aiken’s perspective what is happening in the country.

I’ve recently been able to chat more with one of my Somali colleagues and I’ve been learning more about what led up to the civil war and how the crisis continues. I forget the exact number of years but he has been here between 15 and 20 years. He was a wealthy man in Somalia earning $1,000’s of dollars a week as a farmer and businessman. Now he is an associate educator at a middle school. He happened to be a part of the wrong clan when the civil war broke out – doing everything he could to ensure his family fled to safety. He holds no hopes of going back home. It is a sad story but he is making the most of it for himself and his family.

Pray for him and pray for those who aren’t able to flee the violence. And heck while you are at it why not pray for those perpetrating the violence!

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Somalia, the country made famous in America in 1996 because of the movie Black Hawk Down is still roiled by intense fighting. Is there anything the US could do to help end the violence that continues to displace families? A recent report by Refugees International thinks so. OneWorld reports that (emphasis mine)

there is “a staggering scale of need” for the displaced people, as malnutrition rates for children under five have become “alarmingly high.” UN estimates suggest that since January nearly 60,000 people have fled the Somali capital Mogadishu, most as a result of “search and sweep” operations conducted by the government of Somalia and the Ethiopian military against the Eritrea-based opposition groups.

RI says its members have spoken to some of the 200,000 civilians who have settled on the road to Afgooye, a village approximately 20 miles west of Mogadishu. That area is now the most densely populated settlement of internally displaced people in the world.

“Somalis perceive the United States as supporting the Ethiopian presence and the reprehensible behavior of Ethiopian troops in their country,” said RI’s Patrick Duplat. “The heavy-handed bombing of individual targets in Somalia and other military actions fuels this anti-American sentiment.”

This is another conflict in a Muslim country where we are seen as the bad guys by almost everyone. If we could do more to end this war it could help our “War on Terrorism.” I am not advocating sending US troops back to Somalia or even a UN Peacekeeping force. But I agree with the report authors who say

that by condemning human rights abuses and holding the Ethiopian military accountable for their actions, the United States can go a long way towards defusing tensions in the Horn of Africa. [The US is giving lots of financial and physical resources to Ethiopia for this campaign]

During a conversation with a well-esteemed Somalia elder here in Minneapolis he said something very interesting about our governments actions in Somalia. I’ll paraphrase here:

Somalia had an Islamic government that was beginning to make progress. Yes, there were some members of Al-Qaeda involved in the government but their extremist (terrorist) views were marginalized and not allowed to be part of the official policy. The US then encourage Ethiopia to invade Somalia to over throw the Islamic government – this created a power vacuum allowing Al-Qaeda to step into full power and bring their extremist ideas to the forefront.

This may be a simplistic idea but it seems pretty logical. We have a problem with knocking out governments that might be good – if they aren’t fitting into our policy ideals. (Look at Hamas in Palestine, a democratically elected government which we refuse to recognize)

There is not a simple action point with this post, but you can contact your legislators and share your thoughts and opinions about Somalia and the crisis.

Read the full report from Refugees International.

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With my new found fondness for Somalia I have taken a greater interest in the oft-forgotten country.

Why the new Fondness?
I have always had a fondness for Africa, so that part isn’t new. Somali hasn’t been on the radar much but now is mostly due to the fact that we are now living in the metro area with the highest concentration of Somali Refugees in the United States. Also in part because I am working in a school that is at least 1/3 Somali students – most whom are learning English. Many of our neighbors are Somalian and we live within 3 blocks of two Somali Mosques.

Somali Family Night
Last night my school held a Somali Family Night for the first time in several years. We were excited to have about 40 people show up and hope to keep the momentum rolling. You see in Somalia the parent’s weren’t overly involved in the educational system. Children went to school and the school handled everything. That isn’t quite the case here in the US as I’m sure you know. So we had some of our Somali and non-Somalian teachers talk about how the families can help their students succeed.

Somalian Refugee Crisis?? That was so 90’s
That’s true many people have forgotten about the conflict in Somali partly because there are so many conflict in Africa and partly due to fatigue and overall lack of apathy. I would also conjecture that it is in some part because everyone in Somalia is Muslim (that might be very cynical of me). The conflict has continued with very little respite since the mid-1990’s (remember Black Hawk Down?). The country has been in some state of conflict since post-colonialism in the 1960’s. On a tangential note, much of the African conflicts could be traced back to how colonists acted when they left. One of the teachers at the school has been in the US for 20 years – so the conflict has been prominent for at least that long.

Refugee’s Are Dying
All of this came to mind today because of a news report I received from the UN yesterday. It is titled: Somali Refugees Surviving on Less than 1 Meal a Day. Much like everyone else, refugees aren’t guaranteed anything when the seek refuge from their homes. But we generally expect there to be some level of safety and comfort at refugee camps. This report said:

Large numbers of families displaced by violence in Somalia are surviving on less than one meal a day and spending large proportions of their meagre income buying drinking water, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Severe droughts in parts of the country has exacerbated the problem for Somali’s who are fleeing urban areas due to violence.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced,” the ICRC said. “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.”

In some parts of the country, the population was entirely dependent on animal breeding and trading. However, pastures had become barren in many places and herders were losing animals that had become too weak to walk the lengthening distances between fresh pastures and scarce water points.

Highlighting the plight of some 3,500 families who arrived two months ago in Guriel, 300km from Mogadishu, Gagnon said: “These families are enduring the extremities of suffering. The living conditions are shocking. In some places, food, water, essential household items, and sanitation facilities are scarce or non-existent.”

A severe drought had hit Mudug region, with some communities having lost their basic means of sustaining themselves.

We should be praying for peace and finding ways to support the refugee system to bring in water and other necessities. I haven’t found a Save Somalia group, like the Save Darfur groups – but it is just as important.

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