(click here for slideshow).Somalia is facing what is now considered the world's worst hunger crisis in over two decades - a famine that has put 11 million people across the region at risk of starvation.The most devastating drought to hit eastern Africa and the horn in 60 years, combined with rising food prices, has driven the child malnutrition rate to 55% while the number of infant deaths has reached six a day, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Barbara Jackson of CARE International said the situation in Somalia is the most catastrophic she's ever seen in her 22-years of field experience. Jackson also pleaded to the world community on behalf of those victimized by the famine:"The level of suffering they have endured is beyond our imagination and they require immediate assistance. Everyone I met had the same message, 'Please tell the world for us, that we need help, and that we need it now. We cannot last much longer'."The global response to the emergency has been extremely disappointing to many humanitarians. An appeal late last year for $535 million to address the growing food shortage is still more than $250 million short.But reaching this requirement will simply satisfy the immediate need and not address the underlying causes of the crisis. Until that happens, Somalia's long-term prognosis looks frightening.Continue reading on Examiner.com Scenes from Somalia: Famine, drought and terror - National Geopolitics
Saruuro Aden traveled on foot from Dunsoor, near Baidoa in southern Somalia, across the Kenyan border with her four children. She said they walked for 10 days."Famine, drought — as well as conflict — all added up has forced us to leave Dunsoor," says Aden, speaking on the outskirts of Dagahaley camp this week, five days after she arrived. "I encountered lots of problems, including an attack. All the money I had, all the clothes, everything was taken away from me. We don't know who the attackers were. It was at night," she says."They took only our personal effects, but we women were not sexually assaulted," she adds. Other female Somali refugees have reported that they were raped or abused by attackers.Before heading off to look for firewood, Aden turns and says, "We have no food, we have no shelter. We have no clothes. We are just out there in the open, in the wind. We need water. We need life."Dadaab settlement is run by the U.N. refugee agency. It was built to house 90,000 people in the early 1990s, when the conflict in Somalia broke out. That number has swelled to almost 400,000, plus the more than 30,000, say the Kenyan authorities, in June and July.Somalis are in search of help offered at the camps, provided by the U.N. and dozens of relief organizations — including some from the U.S. and all over the world.Many of the women have trekked with severely malnourished children. Dr. Humphrey Musyoka, who works at the field hospital of the U.S.-based aid agency International Rescue Committee in Hagadera camp, says they have seen a fourfold increase of cases admitted for severe malnutrition since the influx of the recent arrivals."This leaves the children quite vulnerable, especially in the situation where food security is not guaranteed," he says. "We have seen children die - maybe, over the last week or so, two to three children. Those are the very severely ill children."
Musyoka says the main reason they are seeing the deaths of some children is because the patients arrive sometimes too far gone for the medical teams to be able to help."We are getting very many late arrivals, even into our nutrition program. So there is only so much we can do to salvage this kind of situation," he says.
Hawa Hassan, who is about 80 years old, cradles her 3-year-old grandson, Adan Abdon, in her arms on an IRC hospital bed at Hagadera.With large, limpid eyes, it is clear Adan is suffering from acute malnutrition, with the telltale oversized head on his wasted, wizened body. He hardly whimpers. He does not smile or react. Adan's mother died of hunger, his grandmother says, during the 30-day walk from southern Somalia.
"All our animals died in the drought," she says, "so that was the end of our livelihood. We had to leave Somalia and walk to Kenya - with my grandchildren, including Adan, and you can see he is so very, very sick."That is the problem, laments Abubakar Mohamed. He is the deputy field coordinator across town at another hospital run by the emergency medical charity MSF — or Doctors Without Borders — at Dagahaley camp.Himself a Somali-Kenyan, Mohamed says the plight of the new arrivals is pitiful and no fault of their own."The groups that we are receiving now are the groups that were left behind after the anarchy of Somalia - civil strife [in the 1990s]," he says.Mohamed, who has been working at Dadaab refugee settlement since it opened more than two decades ago, says the first arrivals then were the victims of conflict, politics and poor leadership in Somalia.He adds that the new refugees, though, "had no business in politics."
"Today, they are the victims of natural calamities like famine. They had no choice," he says. "So, unlike in the other times, it was politics, now it's a different scenario: innocent people who are suffering — not politicians, not armies, not military [but] real human beings, farmers, nomads who have had a tough time in Somalia."
Challenges Delivering Aid To Somalia