Battles rage in Mogadishu as emergency aid flights continue

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AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE JULY 29, 2011 1:07 PM

MOGADISHU – Islamist fighters battled pro-government troops in Mogadishu Friday and dead bodies were dragged in the streets even as the UN flew in a second batch of aid for drought-hit children.

The worst fighting in days saw the Shebab insurgents try to claw back lost territory in the capital, where aid groups scrambled to assist civilians left on the brink of starvation by the one of region’s worst ever droughts.

Fierce fighting broke out for the second day running as the al-Qaida-inspired rebels reinforced positions following the launch of a government offensive to secure aid routes for drought victims.

Witnesses said three African Union soldiers were killed in the fighting.

“I saw three dead Ugandan soldiers dragged by the residents in Suqaholaha, they wore army dog-tags around their neck,” said Osmail Yusuf, a witness.

“Their bodies were brought by the Shebab fighters from the frontline.”

There was no immediate confirmation from the AU mission (AMISOM), which has around 9,000 forces from Uganda and Burundi deployed in Mogadishu to protect the embattled Western-backed transitional federal government.

The second flight of the UN World Food Program’s airlift arrived in the war-torn capital despite the clashes, carrying “specialised nutritional food for malnourished children under the age of five,” it said in a statement.

“Our feeding centres continue to operate in spite of the difficult security situation,” said the WFP.

Somalia is the Horn of Africa country worst affected by an extreme drought that has put millions in danger of starvation and spurred a global fund-raising campaign.

The UN raised its appeal Friday, announcing that it was now looking for $2.48 billion for 12.4 million affected people and warning that what has been described as the worst catastrophe in a generation could yet get worse if donors default.

“Without the needed additional voluntary contributions, it is anticipated that the impact of the famine may spread throughout southern Somalia and over the borders into neighbouring countries within the coming one to two months,” UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Nearly half of Somalia’s estimated 10 million people are in need of relief assistance, owing to the effects of relentless violence and the drought that prompted the UN to declare famine for the first time this century.

The UN children’s agency warned on Friday that 1.25 million children in urgent need of life-saving support in drought-struck southern Somalia must be made a “top priority”.

“The children of southern Somalia desperately need our help,” UNICEF Somalia representative Rozanne Chorlton said in a statement, warning that 640,000 children are acutely malnourished.

“Too many of them have already died and many others are at great risk unless we act now,” she added.

But the scope of the catastrophe is huge and delivering aid to one of the most dangerous countries in the world is difficult.

UNICEF has mounted a “massive scale up of its operation” alongside local partners in Somalia to bring in enough high-energy food for 65,000 children into southern Somalia.

Six UNICEF flights and two ships have delivered high-energy food this month, with supplies reaching hardline Shebab rebel-controlled areas.

“Although we have challenges, we are reaching children,” Chorlton added.

The UN say the Shebab are a major obstacle to delivering aid, but the insurgents have been losing ground in the capital in recent months as government troops and AMISOM have clawed their way back to several key positions.

But both sides claimed victory in the fighting Friday, with Shebab fighters claiming to have destroyed an AMISOM tank.

“The enemy tried to penetrate our positions but we have beaten them back, the mujahideen fighters killed many of them,” Shebab spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab told reporters.

“We destroyed some of their armed vehicles including a tank which is burning,” he added.

But the government deputy army chief also claimed to have won the day’s battle.

“We have weakened the enemy, and we are now advancing onto new locations,” Colonel Abdikarin Dhegobadan told reporters at the frontline.

© Copyright (c) AFP

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Battles+rage+Mogadishu+emergency+flights+continue/5178551/story.html#ixzz1TWY2SMrS

Between the Stomach and the Purse: What we can Learn From the Great Irish Famine in the 1840s

by David Nelly from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/david-nally/between-the-stomach_b_907350.html

In East Africa a humanitarian disaster is fast unfolding with the spectre of famine looming. The worst drought for 60 years means that crops have failed and livestock has perished, leaving impoverished communities increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition and hunger-related diseases.

Poverty, climate change and rising grain prices are combining to tip an already vulnerable population into a state of crisis. An estimated 10 million people are affected across a vast swathe of Africa taking in areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Huge numbers of people are on the move, leaving their homes and walking hundreds of miles to seek food in camps and feeding stations. Harrowing media reports describe mothers having to choose between seeking medical treatment for their weakest child and nourishment for the others. They live in a situation in which their everyday decisions have the most extraordinary consequences.

An important question to ask today is: who is at fault for this awful tragedy of famine? Another way to frame this question is to reflect on the genesis and progression of past famines where the historical records are robust enough for us to draw some useful conclusion.

Fewer than 170 years ago, a devastating famine occurred within the British Isles, then the most economically advanced region in the world. In Ireland, at that time part of the United Kingdom as a result of the Act of Union in 1801, 1 million people perished in what became known as An Gorta Mór or The Great Hunger.

The rural Irish poor, many of whom were subsistence farmers renting barely viable plots of ground, were reliant on the potato for their staple diet. When a mysterious blight, later identified as Phytophthora infestans, ruined the potato harvest huge numbers faced starvation. The poorest – who suffered dreadfully even in ‘ordinary’ years – were soon reduced to digging the ground for seedlings so small ‘that only hunger could see them.’ Others fed on diseased carrion, noxious weeds, and other indigestible ‘famine foods’. When the hunger became intolerable, thousands turned to the government’s Public Works schemes or to the Poor Law workhouses where a combination of communicable diseases and punitive labour carried off already weakened frames. Millions more people fled the country with the population of Ireland dwindling from around 9 million in 1845 to 6.1 million in 1851.

When judged in terms of the mortality rate, the Irish Famine was one of the worst demographic tragedies of the 19th century and possibly the worst famine in recorded history. What might the Irish experience teach US about the present humanitarian crisis in East Africa?

Well, firstly, the Irish Famine offers some important lessons about how famines are caused and about the vulnerability of certain social groups. In my book, Human Encumbrances, I quote from a public lecture delivered in New York in 1847 by the Catholic Archbishop John Hughes (1797-1864). In his speech Hughes remarked on the importance of distinguishing between the ‘antecedent circumstances’ and the ‘primary’ or ‘original’ causes of the Famine. Hughes was, in other words, insisting on a difference between immediate ‘shocks’ and long-term ‘trends’. While droughts, floods and other climatic events might ‘trigger’ a food crisis, the real cause of famine, he believed, was the colonial system that produced and maintained poverty by the denying the Irish poor ownership of the land.

The challenge therefore is to identify the trends that underlie the abject poverty experienced by certain groups throughout their lives. In thinking about the famine crisis in East Africa today we ought to begin by looking at how vulnerability is created and how poor communities may not be able to cope with ‘shocks’ such as drought resulting from climate change. Degrading poverty means that whole communities are, to adapt R.H. Tawney’s classic formulation, ‘standing up to their neck in water so that even a ripple is sufficient to drown them’.

History also teaches us that famines are rarely the result of an absolute shortage of food. This was the case during the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 when hundreds of thousands of agricultural labourers starved to death while Bengal produced the largest rice crop in history. Research produced by the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen on the famine in Wollo, Ethiopia in the early 1970s, similarly shows that sufficient food was available in other parts of the country. Those who died – pastoral farmers, women in domestic service occupations, tenant cultivators, artisans and petty craftsmen – were unable to purchase food because they lacked the means to do so. Sen argues that by focusing solely on food availability and supply we ignore the vital issue of distribution, access and the affordability of food.

Similar points to those made by Sen were elaborated in the nineteenth century. Shortly after the Irish Famine, for example, the nationalist and author John Mitchel (1815-1875) described how one ship sailing to Ireland with aid was passed by several more ships leaving Ireland carrying cattle, oats, wheat, and other commodities that were beyond the reach of the starving Irish. While Mitchel almost certainly overstated how much food was exported during this time, the historical record is unambiguous that exports continued throughout the famine years. It is also the case that the British government refused calls to implement traditional anti-famine measures – like prohibiting the distillation of alcohol (which requires grain), or ordering the slaughter of livestock to nourish the people – policies that doubtlessly would have saved more lives. These anti-famine measures were frowned upon by a vocal coterie of political economists who believed that interference by the government would only prolong the violence of famine. Thus the London Times was surely right to characterise the famine as a ‘war between the stomach and the purse’.

Mitchel’s remarks also urge us to examine the wider set of international relations that allocate resources often in highly unequal ways. Africa, a land synonymous with disease and starvation (if one goes by the standard news clippings), is actually a resource-rich continent that exports oil, gold, coltan (a mineral used in mobile phone technologies), diamonds, timber, biofuels, uranium and other valuable commodities. The historical study of famine shows that the people of countries that are nominally resource-rich can starve because those resources are extracted to meet the needs of a global economy rather than the nutritional needs of local populations. The recent use of African land to grow crops for biofuels is particularly instructive: filling the tank of a sport utility vehicle, for instance, uses 450 lbs of corn – enough food to feed one person for an entire year. Thus policies designed to enhance the ‘food and energy security’ of relatively affluent places, such as Europe, can compromise the security of peoples in Africa. Today, as in the nineteenth century, life and death decisions of a terrifying scale are woven in the fabric of international economic relations.

Finally history teaches us that ‘food is power’ and that aid can be used as a political weapon. In Human Encumbrances I discuss how the government used food aid to force political and economic change in Ireland. After 1847, for example, the poor who owned more than a quarter acre of ground were required by law to give up their land in return for food aid, which at the time was in the form of workhouse relief. The mechanism for delivering aid, in other words, was a charter for eviction and land clearance – a goal that some thought necessary for the depopulation and long term modernization of Ireland. It was thought that the poor had neither the fortitude nor the intelligence to better themselves, and Irish smallholders in particular were considered to be backward and immoral. Even the very diets that the people relied on were viewed in moral terms: the feckless and slothful Irish were potato-fed, whereas the thrifty and hard-working English were wheat-fed.

We can draw an analogy here with the present crisis in East Africa. On the one hand, the delivery of food aid is restricted by U.S. guidelines not to send food to areas controlled by Islamist militant groups. While on the other hand, in the past few days a Somali leader announced that there was no famine and no aid would be accepted. Unfortunately, aid is almost always tied into a broader set of political concerns – in this case U.S. involvement in Somali relief is being determined by the geopolitical prerogatives of the ‘War on Terror’ and the fear of leaking funds to terrorist organisations. Within Somalia, years of political instability and civil war have led to the situation in which the withholding of food to certain local populations is a way of maintaining political power. With tragic results, and not for the first time in history, the poor are being left starve for ideological reasons decided elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Somali rebels accuse U.N. of exaggerating drought severity, playing politics

Somali rebels accuse U.N. of exaggerating drought severity, playing politics

By Ibrahim Mohamed, Friday, July 22, 5:01 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali Islamist rebels accused the United Nations on Thursday of exaggerating the severity of the drought gripping the south of the country and of politicizing the humanitarian crisis there.

The United Nations on Wednesday declared famine in two pockets of southern Somalia, saying that 3.7 million people are at risk of starvation and that it is launching its biggest-ever relief effort.

     

     

    The south of the Horn of Africa country is largely controlled by the militant group al-Shabab, a group linked to al-Qaeda whose four-year-old insurgency is widely blamed for worsening the effects of the drought.
    Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters that the U.N. declaration “is totally, 100 percent wrong and baseless propaganda,” adding, “Yes, there is drought, but the conditions are not as bad as they say.”

    “They have another objective, and it wouldn’t surprise us if they were politicizing the situation,” Rage said.

    If the international community does not tackle the emergency swiftly, the U.N. has said, the famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia.

    This month, the rebels lifted a ban on food aid that they had said created dependency.

    The U.N. World Food Program, which suspended its operations in the south in January of last year, said Thursday that it plans to start airlifts into the capital, Mogadishu, within days.

    Millions Stare Death in the Face Amidst Ravaging Drought

    Miriam Gathigah

    18 July 2011

    Nairobi — While Kenya struggles to cope with the influx of refuges fleeing the drought in Somalia, it is estimated that about 1,300 people arrive daily at the Dadaab refugee camp, the country is facing its own crisis of malnutrition and starvation.

    It takes on average nine days in 50-degree Celsius heat for Somali’s fleeing the drought in their country to travel the 80 kilometres of the sandy, expansive desert that separates Dadaab in Northern Kenya from Somalia.

    The journey to Dadaab is a treacherous one, made even more perilous as it snakes through territories of lawlessness where armed bandits and even police harass the refugees.

    And when those who survive the journey finally reach Dadaab, they soon realise that the camp is far from the haven they hoped it would be.

    In Kenya an estimated five million people across the country are facing starvation because of drought, according to Abbas Gullet, the secretary general of the Kenyan Red Cross.

    In the northern part of Kenya, the local Turkana community is facing starvation, just like the refugees at Dadaab.

    According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), from a population of about 850,000 people in Turkana, more than 385,000 children and 90,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are suffering from acute malnutrition. This has increased the number of new admissions of children suffering from malnutrition to a staggering 78 percent.

    “This is a very serious situation, across the region (Horn of Africa) more than 10 million people are affected. Of this, two million children are severely affected with half a million of them suffering from severe acute malnutrition and (many are) on the brink of death,” UNICEF executive director, Anthony Lake, says.

    This comes less than two months after Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki declared the drought a national disaster as the lives of people in Moyale, Turkana, Wajir, Marsabit and Mandera hang in the balance because of a lack of food and water.

    “On my visit to Turkana, one of the drought-stricken regions, I saw a mother putting powdered palm nuts in her mouth in order to moisten the grains before putting the mixture in the mouth of her baby because of the lack of water … this is a crisis,” says Lake. He was speaking at a press briefing in Nairobi on Jul. 17.

    The ministry of special programs and the Kenya Red Cross have been providing food aid to those most affected by the drought, but with the arrival of a high number of refugees, locals say that the aid focus has shifted to Dadaab.

    Those asylum seekers who succumb to the heat and lack of water along the way to Dadaab are buried not far from the camp, in a makeshift graveyard. The graveyard serves as a reminder to the living that unless circumstances improve, death may also soon be their fate.

    “Dadaab in Northern Kenya was built for a maximum of 90,000 refugees, the numbers are now at 423,000 and counting, with 50,000 more building makeshift camps around the refugee complex,” explains a source at the Kenya Red Cross. The camp was officially declared full in 2008.

    And that is not all.

    “More refugees are on their way,” says Doctors Without Borders nurse, Nenna Arnold. “We are already at bursting point, but the figures keep growing. This situation is a humanitarian emergency.”

    As more and more people crowd the three camps that make up the Dadaab complex, the availability of essential services like water, food and basic sanitation is becoming inadequate to serve the numbers living there.

    While speaking after a tour across drought-stricken Kenya, Andrew Mitchell, British secretary of state for international development, says that millions of people are staring death in the face as the Horn of Africa faces the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world.

    UNICEF confirms that one in every three Somalis is living through a humanitarian catastrophe. Somalis have endured a long drawn socio-political crisis for about 20 years, which has led to the escalation of poverty, food insecurity and instability.

    The situation in Somalia has spilled over to the neighbouring countries, particularly Kenya and Ethiopia, which are also dealing with millions of people who require urgent food and water relief.

    This has led to a feeling of animosity from the host communities who feel that the refugees are competing with them for scarce food aid.

    “The host community is now expressing frustration for what they see as negligence as the government and aid agencies rush to the rescue of the refugees,” explains Lake.

    “The locals are wondering why there is a lot of attention to help refugees while our people in Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit and other regions are suffering the same fate,” wonders Mohammed Abdi, a cattle trader who is counting his losses as more of his livestock succumb to the drought.

    “We understand that the refugees need help. But we in Northern Kenya are not fairing any better. We are feeling very neglected, who feeds visitors in their home while his own children are starving?” asks Abdi.

    Death fields of hunger ?

    Death fields of hunger?

    How do we respond to the dire famine devastating the horn of Africa region?  Countries of Kenya Ethiopia andSomaliaas have been rightly said are experiencing the greatest drought in 60 years, consequently precious life of plants and animals and soon humans will be lost will these be the new death fields of hunger?

    With only a week of rainfall during the long rain season in the Northeastern Kenya, it became obvious to me and other residents that we will be in for a song and now we are singing it. A leader, A.K. narrated that; “pastoralists moved their herds to Somalia in search of pasture and water, as often done in such droughts, found worse conditions there. Similarly, those who went toEthiopiawere just as disappointed.”

    Besides the pastoralist, all people living in the region are hit hard and would find it hard to survive. Where foodstuff can be found in stores the prices are punitive, many have no job opportunities as well.

    We have worked in this region for over 20 years and now facing disaster of this magnitude I cannot but hear the voice of Jesus who commanded the twelve: “… give them something to eat.” Mark 6:37 when confronted with the hungry 5000 people.

     

     

     

    Visiting our famous cattle market it is being reported that cattle are selling for under Ksh 4000 [GBp 39] five or so lower, a goat going for ksh.100 in other areas… and that would

    be better than loosing them in death.

    This is literaly wiping out the wealth and livelihood of this community for years… a region truly rich is livestock!

    This time around the publicity of the famine has touched far and wide and we hope needs can be met and all people will be helped! The NGOs and Government through the provincial administration[ chiefs] are putting up measures to feed the people in the region and the refugees not only fleeing war inSomaliabut this calamity.

    But minorioties in the region may fall between the cracks of victimisation or neglect and should be addressed. The Christian minority population has in the past been neglected or ignored in this majority Muslim context and have had untold suffering in times of trouble. The focus on children need to be hightened as this is also another blind spot. The vulnerable members of the society  are often squeezed out of help.

    Speaking  to AHM who is in his early fifties and blind in both eyes depends on one of his sons to get him around. He has seven children from the two wives he married who left him. All their cattle is gone except for two tinny machinated sheep. With a house in disrepair with no toilet, he requested for help in constructing one and repairing his house.

    “where do I get food for my children ?” was his  most pressing need.

     

     

    TSM a Kenyan Christian mission with work in this region is responding to this challenge in providing food support to the community and focusing on these gaps on

    • Minorities: Christians in these areas often miss out on help

    • Children: especially orphans and child-led families

    • The physically challenged: it is so easy for them to be out of sight and forgotten

    We hope to look beyond the relief to look at issues of boreholes which will help the pastoralists preserve some animals

    How much bread do you have?” Mark 6:38… We are inviting your participation in this   challenge to ‘give them something to eat’

    # it will cost $ 35 to support a family for a month

    # to support child feeding scheme will cost $ 10 a month

    # do bore hole costs about $ 1000 each.

    Please pray

    • For the people you need urgent help. Many of them are trying to survive in unimaginable conditions

    • For their spiritual needs of those affected. Their souls are precious to God.

    • For the hearts of every able person or organization to be touched and respond.

    • For people who can come aboard and live assistance to coordinate the relief effort.

    Here is a unique opportunity to show the love of Christ in a practical way.

    Rev. Canon F Omondi .TSM