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Can you develop a place as violent as Somalia?

By Emma Batha
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

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With anarchy reigning in Somalia for 17 years, development projects are not exactly high on donors' to-do lists.

Somalia is so dangerous that aid agencies can't even reach many of the people forced to flee fighting between Islamic insurgents, various warlords and allied Somali and Ethiopian troops. Violence in the capital Mogadishu alone killed 6,500 people last year, according to rights groups.

Surely, this is not the time to be undertaking major development ventures?

Guillermo Bettocchi, the country's U.N. refugee representative, begs to differ. Aside from the raging conflict, Somalia is plagued by floods that cause recurrent humanitarian crises in the Jowhar area.

Everyone knows that if a dam were built the problem would be solved, says Bettocchi. Yet because donors view a dam as a development project, they're less than keen to put their hands in their pockets.

Bettocchi says donors have been reasonably good about responding to the immediate displacement crisis in Somalia, but he says they should be more ready to invest in medium and long-term projects.

Yet, is it really feasible to think about development in a country that is so insecure that aid deliveries need armed escorts?

Let us know what you think.
(Click here for more on Bettocchi and Somalia.)

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