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The Hidden Catastrophe Behind the Current Political Turmoil

By Sadia Ali Aden

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As safety and security in and around Mogadishu and much of the southern part of Somalia improved, the world's attention shifted from the deadly drought and the subsequent famine that engulfed Somalia and the region, to focus on the facilitators of that newly found peace, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).  The UIC gained world attention after they defeated the US backed notorious warlords that devastated much of Somalia for the past 15 years.  Although, the warlords and their deadly militias have been mostly defeated or dislodged, the conflict of Somalia has continued unabated and even widened as the result of outside involvement. The last and the third reconciliation conference between the UIC and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), failed earlier this month.   One of the underlying issues attributed to that failure, was the presence of Ethiopian troops inside Somalia

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zanawi, has insisted that his troops are in Somalia to provide support to the TFG, currently seated in Baidao approximately 240 kilometers from Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.  At the same time, Eritrea has also been implicated by some in this conflict for its support to the UIC.   This has been consistently denied by the UIC.  Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have a border conflict of their own, which still remains unresolved.  Hence, they have successfully transplanted their proxy border war to Somalia, where they eventually would like to settle their dispute through support for the main antagonists in Somali's conflict, at the expense of the10 million innocent Somalis who have seen nothing but devastation for nearly decade and half.  

With that looming war, the April, 2006 drought that has affected approximately 1.4 million has left behind a devastating famine.   The dedication and the perseverance of the Somalis inside Somalia and those in the Diaspora, coupled with the help of the relief agencies such as the Somali Relief Fund (SRF) of USA, has prevented massive famine related deaths.  SRF has built cooperation and coordination with other relief and development organizations such as Human Concern International (HCI) of Canada, the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA) and Adar Foundation of USA.  They worked with the Somali community in the Diaspora, to organize and raise much needed funds, and have partnered with Himalo Relief and Development Association (HIRDA) based in the Netherlands, which carried out much of the actual delivery of the relief supplies on the ground in Somalia.    

HIRDA's dedication and commitment to reach across regions, has built the confidence of those who can provide funds but do not have the logistical means or the knowledge to reach the internally displaced persons (IDP) themselves.  In addition, HIRDA has successfully built and sustained schools in the southern Somalia providing education to children of all ages, gender and underserved communities.  These dedicated organizations, whose work helps reduce the suffering of Somali civilians, are unfortunately, overshadowed by Somalia's current political turmoil.

Most of the news agencies reporting from Somalia, have all detailed the heavy rains that followed the drought and the famine that resulted in deadly floods.  These heavy rains have been pounding the region, bringing misery and death in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea.  The UN is reporting that these heavy rains threaten 1.8 million people in the Horn of Africa.  According to the UNHCR refugee agency in the region, these deadly floods have displaced over 78,000 people in northeast Kenya alone.  In addition, the refugee camps bordering Somalia are completely isolated by these floods as a result of the Kenyan Government's recent decision to ban transportation, particularly those bound for the Dhadhaab refugee camp. Exceptions have been made recently, only for relief and government transportation. 

It is the Dhadhaab refugee camp, which shelters mostly Somali refugees that has taken the brunt of the pain.  The BBC Somali section interview aired on 16 November has shed light on the suffering and the devastation caused by the floods and has painted a gloomy picture of the situation.   For instance, Damac Mohamed Ali, the eldest of four orphan children has walked from Ifa refugee camp to Dhadhaab to only find humiliation on the road.  On her way to find food for her and her younger siblings, Damac detailed a tale of hunger, thirst and humiliation by gangs she encountered on the road.  Ruqiya Omar Kaynan, also a refugee in the camp, overwhelmed with emotion, has told more devastation with the drowning of young children and the handicapped.   These women desperately pleaded with the BBC reporter, asking him to tell their story and to inform the outside world.

In Somalia, the regions mostly impacted are Gedo, Hiiraan, middle and lower Juba and lower Shabelle, all in the vicinity of Juba and Shabelle rivers.  Over 75,000 people have been displaced thus far, in the southern Somalia.  Many of these residents are isolated as the roads and few bridges in the area are submerged in the floods.   Adding to the catastrophe, are the washed out snakes and crocodiles into sunken villages, all the more, contributing to the struggle of the internally displaced population (IDP).  People are said to be climbing trees where they are finding competitive snakes also evading the floods for the top of the tree.  Where, if they remained on ground, they will encounter the washed out crocodiles. Hence, the known deaths, thus far, caused by the crocodiles are said to be nine people.  Again, as in the drought of April 2006 and the competition for water with the wild animals, this too indeed symbolizes "the survival of the fittest". 

The heavy rains and ensuing floods in the southern Somalia have killed many and displaced tens of thousands over the past weak.  Those killed in these floods are mainly elderly and children and most of these deaths are being reported from the Gedo region that is bordering Ethiopia and Kenya.   The reports also indicate that livestock have been lost and large tracts of farmlands have submerged into the floods.   Though, Somalia is experiencing short rains in the usual months of September thru December of this Dayr season, heavy rains in bordering Ethiopia have caused the rivers to swell and burst their banks.  According to one of the IRIN reports, neither the riverbeds nor their sluice gates have been habilitated since the collapse of the Somali government in 1991

There are serious concerns in dealing with water contamination and the displaced.  These reports indicate, the floods have inundated the latrines, and that has created a great anxiety in the relief communities.  These polluted waters can cause epidemic of cholera, malaria, dysentery as well as other diseases.  The hammering rains have hindered the delivery of the relief that is desperately needed.   Nevertheless, the relief agencies are both overwhelmed and unequipped to handle the deep humanitarian crisis that is unfolding behind Somalia's political turmoil. 

"Dugsi Male Qabyaaladi Waxay Dumiso      
Mooyaane"  Cabdullaahi Suldaan Timacadde

Sadia Ali Aden
[email protected]

The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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