Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa with a population of more than 15 million people. Today, more than 70% of the country’s population experience poverty. The people of Somalia struggle with food insecurity, vulnerability to human trafficking and youth unemployment among other challenges. One issue, in particular, is malnutrition in Somali children.

Food Insecurity

The most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report on Somalia projects that 22% of the population or 2.7 million people will struggle with acute food insecurity in the coming months. The main factors contributing to food insecurity are locusts, floods, droughts and low amounts of rainfall.

Malnutrition in Somali Children

The current food insecurity crisis facing Somalia has placed more than 800,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition. Nutrition surveys taken in 2020 measured Global Acute Malnutrition levels of 36 population groups in Somalia on a scale increasing in intensity from Acceptable (IPC phase 1) to critical (IPC phase 4). Specifically:

  • Nine out of 36 population groups in Somalia faced critical levels of Global Acute Malnutrition. This means that more than 15% of the population of children in these regions are suffering from acute malnutrition.
  • A total of 28 population groups suffered from severe (IPC phase 3) levels of malnutrition. This means at least 10% of the population experienced acute malnutrition.
  • More than 34% of Somali children are in need of treatment for acute malnutrition.

Compared to years past, more populations have improved to phase 3 as their acute malnutrition levels decrease. Malnutrition levels have improved due to continued humanitarian aid efforts and accessibility to milk. The ongoing pandemic and seasonal challenges may lead to increased levels of acute malnutrition as food access decreases and the ability to get aid to at-risk populations becomes more costly.

Combating Malnutrition

Save the Children is a humanitarian organization that has been working in Somalia since 1951. The organization has helped more than 500,000 children by providing food, water and medical assistance to at-risk populations. With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to cause further harm to Somali children, Save the Children has created an emergency fund to increase the amount of aid it can provide.

Action Against Hunger is another humanitarian organization that has been combating malnutrition in Somali children since 1992. In 2019, the organization had provided aid in the form of food, water and health services support to more than 600,000 people. The organization helped more than 20,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition and provided health services to more than 160,000 pregnant women. Action Against Hunger plans to continue supporting Somalia. It plans to expand existing health services for the Somali people and empower the Somali healthcare system.

With millions being affected by food insecurity and more than 800,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition, Somalia is in need of continued humanitarian support. Continual improvements to healthcare, food and water systems have improved the lives of millions of people. The ongoing pandemic and droughts are obstacles in the way of continuing progress in combating malnutrition in Somali children. With these issues, the need for continued humanitarian support only grows.

Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccines for SomaliaIn March 2021, COVAX helped secure the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines for Somalia. According to The New Humanitarian, Somalia has one of the weakest healthcare systems in the world. Before the pandemic, Somalia was already struggling with political and economic concerns. The added effects of COVID-19 have significantly impacted the country.

COVAX Donation and Vaccine Hesitancy

More than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccines first arrived in Somalia on March 15, 2021. Donated by COVAX, a global effort to provide equitable vaccine coverage, the doses will prioritize “frontline workers, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.” UNICEF reports that Somalia is one of the first African countries to receive vaccine donations through COVAX, an important act as the country moves into a new wave of infections.

Misinformation has contributed to vaccine hesitancy in Somalia, which may adversely impact a successful vaccination rollout. Somali people working in the medical field are making efforts to combat misinformation and build vaccine trust to ensure vaccine hesitancy does not present a barrier for Somalia.

COVID-19 in Somalia

COVID-19 cases in Somalia stand at more than 13,000 as of April 30, 2021, with more than 700 deaths. COVID-19 deaths and infections in Somalia are low compared to other African countries and the rest of the world, but slow vaccination rates are making it harder to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. More than a year after the first reported case of COVID-19 in Somalia, Somalia is facing a peak, with a death toll far higher than the peak of 2020. Only about 0.8% of 15 million Somali’s have been vaccinated so far.

The first cases of COVID-19 in Somalia were mostly travel-related cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the past year, the WHO and partners have helped strengthen Somalia’s COVID-19 response by providing critical resources. These efforts contributed to creating three COVID-19 testing labs in Somalia. Furthermore, “73 rapid response teams were deployed for COVID-19 case investigation, alert verification and sample collection.” More than 7,000 healthcare workers received COVID-19 health training and 76 oxygen concentrators were provided to health facilities, among other efforts.

Vaccination Efforts for Preventable Diseases

Before the onset of COVID-19 in Somalia, WHO started the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), which aims to vaccinate Somali children against eight preventable diseases. This program helped control the 2017 and 2018 measles outbreaks in Somalia and helped citizens keep up with routine immunizations, mitigating the spread of common diseases across the country. In 2019, the initiative trained healthcare workers from more than 700 health centers in immunization practices and procedures.

Call to Action

As COVID-19 continues to threaten the world, vulnerable populations in developing countries are most at risk. Recognizing this fact, in June 2021, President Biden announced a plan to donate 500 million COVID-19 vaccines to countries in need through COVAX. The international community needs to come together in a collaborative global effort to ensure disadvantaged countries receive sufficient COVID-19 vaccines.

Monica Mellon
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in SomaliaSomalia is one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world, plagued by frequent violence, widespread food insecurity and natural disasters. To address the nation’s incredibly precarious situation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs in Somalia are expansive and well-funded. USAID programs in Somalia aim to provide humanitarian relief and reduce poverty in the area.

Causes of Poverty in Somalia

Droughts are partly responsible for the severe food insecurity in Somalia. From 2011 to 2019, Somalia experienced a devastating drought. The drought was so severe that it was even given a name, Sima. When it first started, it triggered a famine that killed 250,000 Somalians. In the years following, Sima devastated livestock populations in Somalia. Sima has also forced Somalians to relocate: in 2017, drought was responsible for displacing more than one million people. While Somalia has seen several devastating droughts over the past half-century, Sima has been the most catastrophic one yet.

Civil war and political unrest have also contributed to Somalia’s struggle with poverty and food insecurity. Since the collapse of the military regime led by President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has experienced near-constant warfare. The lack of a functioning Somali government has only made it more difficult for Somalians living in poverty and left the country increasingly reliant on foreign aid.

The numbers illustrate Somalia’s dire situation. In 2017, 6.2 million Somalians were experiencing acute food insecurity. Of that number, half were experiencing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. Since that time, the U.S. Government had increased funding to the country by more than double when it offered an additional $257 million to USAID programs in Somalia in 2019.

USAID Programs in Somalia

The functions of USAID programs in Somalia are wide-ranging and amounted to about $500 million in 2019. USAID’s proclaimed mission statement says “USAID strengthens the foundations for a more stable, democratic and prosperous Somalia while saving lives, alleviating human suffering and reducing the economic impact of disasters.” USAID programs cover several key humanitarian areas.

Firstly, the Office of Food for Peace (FFP) received $300 million in funding for the fiscal year of 2019. FFP aims to alleviate food insecurity among Somalia’s most vulnerable populations. A different initiative attempts to strengthen trust in Somalia’s Government while also working to counteract violent extremist groups. The Democracy, Stabilization and Governance initiative consists of five separate initiatives with separate goals.

The multi-donor trust fund contributions consist of four parts and aim to assist local governments in becoming more effective. Social services initiatives in Somalia work to improve education for marginalized communities. Lastly, economic growth initiatives in Somalia work to revitalize the Somalian economy.

Somalia’s struggle with poverty and food insecurity has been lengthy and difficult. Nevertheless, USAID programs have seen quantifiable improvements. For example, USAID provided access and benefits to alternative basic education for 20,248 students. Even with the positive progress, the U.N. predicts further issues in Somalia and that more foreign aid will be necessary to fully restore the country.

– Leo Ratté
Photo: Flickr

Denmark's Foreign Aid
When it comes to foreign aid, one of the most widely-commended countries is the small nation of Denmark. The Danes are well-known for their generous aid spending and both donor and recipient nations recognize Denmark as a highly effective partner in the fight against global poverty. Here are five facts about Denmark’s foreign aid.

5 Facts About Denmark’s Foreign Aid

  1. Denmark is a world leader in foreign aid spending. In 2019, Denmark spent $2.55 billion on foreign aid, a seemingly small figure compared to the $34.62 billion the United States spent, but Denmark’s population is only about 1.76% that of the U.S. When adjusted for population, Denmark’s foreign aid totals $447 per-capita, much higher than the United States’ $95 per-capita. In fact, Denmark is the fourth-highest per-capita spender of all OECD countries after Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg.
  2. Denmark has consistently been a world leader since the 1970s. The United Nations uses foreign aid as a percentage of Gross National Income to measure a country’s proportional spending, and Denmark is one of the few countries that has met or exceeded the U.N.’s target of 0.7% of GNI since 1978. Denmark’s foreign aid currently amounts to 0.71% of its GNI, trailing only Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden among OECD countries. However, for a brief period during the 1990s, Denmark actually increased this number to over 1%.
  3. Low-and-middle-income countries rate Denmark high for usefulness, influence and helpfulness in foreign aid. In a new study that AidData conducted, leaders from 40 aid-receiving nations ranked Denmark as a top development partner. Besides meeting the U.N.’s foreign aid target, Denmark scored second among all countries for its usefulness regarding policy advice, second for its influence in setting agendas and first for its helpfulness regarding reform implementation. Since 2009, these reforms have included promoting greater private sector expansion and focusing on social progress as a catalyst for economic growth. Denmark’s long-term commitments to implementing such policies in a small number of prioritized nations have proven to be highly effective in reducing extreme poverty.
  4. Denmark manages its foreign aid spending and implementation through DANIDA, the Danish International Development Agency. DANIDA’s top priorities for 2020 are advancing human rights and equality, developing sustainable green growth, providing humane asylum for displaced people and maintaining international cooperation in all global efforts. Denmark’s foreign aid reaches over 70 low-and-middle-income countries, but those of the highest urgency include Afghanistan, Somalia and Niger. Efforts in Afghanistan largely center around education as Danish aid provides teacher education, updated textbooks and curriculum development. In Somalia, DANIDA works to develop safety nets, human rights advancements and strengthen national and local governance. Niger receives policy advice on properly handling the irregular number of migrants in the country as well as basic delivery of living essentials to impoverished children.
  5. Denmark can still improve. While the country is one of only six to meet the U.N.’s target of 0.7% GNI in 2019 with 0.71%, this is a substantial drop from 2015 when Denmark spent 0.85% of GNI on foreign aid. Addressing this cutback, which was largely due to increased spending on refugees within the country, should be a top concern. Reverting back to 2015’s percentage or higher is a positive step Denmark can take, and such a move is all the more likely now as Denmark’s 2019 net migration was negative for the first time in almost a decade. As the country spends less on internal migrants, more of the Danish budget is available to supplement the once-highly-robust foreign aid sector.

One of the most effective ways developed governments can help to improve conditions in poverty-stricken nations is by properly funding and managing healthy foreign aid budgets. By taking Denmark’s example, more countries should seek to meet the U.N.’s 0.7% GNI target and implement this aid in a manner that best fits the needs of impoverished individuals in low-income countries.

– Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia
Female genital mutilation (FGM) impacts more than 200 million women all around the world. The practice, which girls mostly experience between their infancy and teenage years, encompasses a range of procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia. It usually occurs in an informal setting without anesthesia. FGM is a global concern, but sadly there is a collection of nations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia that grant it legitimacy. One of these nations is Somalia, and as the COVID-19 pandemic forces many people to stay at home, circumcisors are subjecting women to door-to-door mutilation. Here is some information about female genital mutilation in Somalia and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting it.

A Universal Ritual

While the prevalence of FGM varies greatly across the many countries that practice it, Somalia has the highest percentage at 98% according to UNICEF. Many nations, including the United Republic of Tanzania and Togo, have met the practice with disdain and objection; however, more than half the women in Somalia think it should continue.

To most people, this would seem outside the realm of possibility, but tradition runs deep in Somalia, and disputing the practice of genital mutilation holds a gravity on par with blasphemy. The procedure itself is a family experience and a rite of passage where, according to Islamic Relief Worldwide, local women use “knives, scissors or razor blades to remove parts of the genitals, while female relatives hold the girl down.”

Cutting Season

There is no law in the Somali Constitution that specifically criminalizes and punishes the practice of female genital mutilation in Somalia, so the tradition remains stable; so much so that experts recognize summer vacation as “cutting season” for girls. Breaking from school means they have time to undergo and recover from the procedure before the next school year starts.

While there is little formal data to strengthen this case, Somali circumcisors agree that the months of July and August are their peak season for FGM. They even pride themselves on the fact that girls travel from other countries like Djibouti to undergo circumcision in Somalia; however, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) saw a “massive” jump in the number of girls who underwent the procedure in 2020 due to coronavirus lockdown.

COVID-19 and FGM

The UNFPA projected that 290,000 girls experienced cutting in 2020 and that an extra 2 million girls could undergo cutting in the next decade due to the setbacks of prevention programs along with the vitality of circumcisors in their efforts to lobby the public into believing that FGM is a healthy rite of passage into womanhood. The lockdown has also led to this massive increase in FGM and the economic state has driven circumcisors to go from door to door, offering to cut the girls stuck inside. While the frequency of mutilation rises, the awareness declines as advocates cannot access communities where FGM is popular.

Solutions

The pandemic has had detrimental effects on efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation in Somalia, but the country has not lost hope. Young women from all across the region are taking a stand against female genital mutilation and those who perpetuate it. The Y-Peer Youth Network is one such group. In 2002, the UNFPA founded the network to educate young people, communities and even health care workers about sexual and reproductive health. Other topics of advocacy are gender-based violence and child marriage.

While FGM is a widespread issue in Somalia, the young girls working to stop it are making waves and shaking the status quo to its core. To learn more about the Y-Peer Youth Network, check out its website.

– Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

Examining Human Trafficking in SomaliaHuman trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or a commercial sex act. Today, human trafficking is a modern term for slavery. Mayumi Ueno, the counter-trafficking project manager at the International Office for Migration (IOM)’s Somalia Support Office, said the scale of human trafficking in Somalia is unknown. Somal women are often trafficked to Kenya, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates to be sexually exploited.

How Human Trafficking in Somalia Happens

Every day, Najib Jama Abdi’s sister got up and walked to school. One day, she did not return. The Abdi family heard from the media that she had been trafficked to Somaliland. “By Allah’s mercy she was saved,” said Najib Jama Abdi to The New Humanitarian. Organizations like the Somali Police Force’s criminal investigations division 40-officer Counter-Trafficking and Organized Crime Unit work to rescue girls who have been kidnapped off the street and sold into human trafficking, like Abdi’s sister.

Human Trafficking in Somalia is a widespread issue. Women and girls are sometimes lied to and offered job opportunities, marriage or education in far-away places and then sold into sex slavery. In 2009, IOM began the Counter-Trafficking Project for Somalia. In Puntland and Somaliland, its activities included promoting awareness and informing citizens of the risks and dangers of being trafficked through media such as billboards.

History of Trafficking in Somalia

For decades, military dictator Siad Barre committed widespread atrocities, which effectively destroyed Somali civil society. Then, in May 1991, Barre was overthrown. The east desert region of Somalia declared itself the “Republic of Somaliland” after the overthrow of Barre. Somaliland now has a population of 3.5 million people, a functional political system, its own currency and a police force.

Before 1991, the federal and regional laws criminalized slave labor and certain forms of sex trafficking. Then, after Barre was overthrown, No progress was reported again until September 2017, when a human trafficking law was drafted and endorsed by Somaliland.

What’s Happening Now

Officials said they are concerned about the increasing amount of human trafficking in Somalia, specifically in the region of Somaliland. This region lies in the south-central region of Somalia. As a result, the lack of government in Somaliland makes child trafficking easier for traffickers to get away with. In November 2017, the city-state of Puntland in northeastern Somalia made valid a human trafficking legislative framework. It was made of new criminal procedures, penal codes and laws that specifically prohibit trafficking. The authorities recorded two trafficking cases that involved six individuals in 2020, during the period the U.S. government reported on the issue.

The Trafficking and Smuggling Task Force was the government’s anti-trafficking coordinating body. However, slow steps are being taken by the government to mitigate human trafficking in Somalia. Nevertheless, new anti-trafficking initiatives are moving in the right direction to end human trafficking in Somalia.

Madeline Drayna
Photo: Flickr 

locusts in SomaliaIn the past several decades, Somalia has faced a variety of challenges, including foreign imperialism, religious extremism and a struggling infrastructure system. Literacy and education have long been areas of concern, as has access to food, water and health care. In 1991, President Muhammed Siad Barre was overthrown and the country descended into civil war with various political and military factions vying for control of the country. Peacekeeping groups from the U.S. and the United Nations attempted to restore a central government and restrain violence, but they were met with opposition, eventually leaving unsuccessful in 1993. Currently, plagues of locusts in Somalia threaten food security and economic stability within the nation.

A Destabilized Country and Poverty

Since 1993, Somalia has made many attempts to create a functioning national government, but for years, progress stalled. The Islamic extremist group Al-Shabab gained momentum in the mid-2000s, causing violence and destruction in the region. The group attacked national infrastructure, and at various points, forced agencies providing aid to withdraw. These tactics caused thousands to die, displaced thousands more and hindered access to health care and education for many.

Human Rights Watch estimated in 2018 that more than 2.5 million people faced internal displacement and agencies providing relief faced continued attacks and struggled to reach Somalians in need of help. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Somalia today is roughly 70%, and “almost nine of 10 Somali households are deprived of at least one fundamental dimension: access to income, electricity, education or water and sanitation.” Life expectancy is low as well, figured to be roughly 53 years for men and 57 for women. The constant violence both cause and compound these issues; the civil war deprives many of access to necessities like food and housing and it continues to be a daily concern even with other equally pressing needs.

Locusts and Food Security

It is against this backdrop that Somalia is currently dealing with a plague of epic proportions. Every year, there is an outbreak of locusts in Somalia and neighboring countries and locals are accustomed to this on some level. However, 2020 is entirely different: Warming temperatures and increased flooding over the last several years created ideal conditions for locusts to breed and reproduce, leading to two separate waves of locusts this year alone. By all accounts, this invasion is the worst in 25 years, decimating a country that was already ill-equipped to deal with a disaster.

The first infestation of locusts in Somalia numbered in the hundreds of billions, blotting out the sky and destroying crops, farmland and any other vegetation in sight. The second was even more devastating — trillions of locusts descended on East Africa and wiped out any chance of a successful harvest. The LA Times reports, “In a single day, a swarm can travel nearly 100 miles and eat its own weight in leaves, seeds, fruits and vegetables — as much as 35,000 people would consume. A typical swarm can stretch over 30 square miles.” It is nearly impossible to deal with locusts individually and a lack of centralized response leaves farmers to fend for themselves in an attempt to mitigate economic loss and save the last remnants of the most recent crop yield.

These waves of locusts ruined economic prospects for many Somali citizens, leaving many in debt and unable to sell their harvests or participate in the local economy. The U.N. Food and Agriculture division estimates that the infestation affected or harmed 100% of sorghum and maize — both vital to the Somali economy. Experts also worry that plagues of locusts will return in the spring of 2021 if allowed to continue breeding and growing to maturity unchecked. The unprecedented quantities of locusts this year make the plague difficult to contain and there is now only a short window in which to act. Avoiding another round of crop damage will require a timely and focused response.

Moving Forward

The good news is that there are tangible solutions, and possibilities remain for Somalia to revitalize its economy and recover from this devastation. Pesticides can contain the insects, but the challenge now is to deploy pesticides in high enough quantities to produce a tangible effect. Currently, Somalia lacks the political will and infrastructure to supply enough planes to be useful, but the U.N. FAO has been meeting with both West African and European countries in an attempt to gather the resources necessary to fight the locusts.

Scientists have been working to develop a worthy biopesticide over the past decade and there is now a working product that is “cheaper, more effective, longer-lasting in the desert and easier to store,” according to Science Magazine. Somali politicians and leading experts in the field from around the world are working to provide relief, and although this plague of locusts in Somalia marks the most severe infestation in decades, there are reasons to be hopeful, given the scenario. If aerial spraying becomes financially viable and available, it could provide significant relief and a renewed opportunity for affected Somalis.

One FAO official commented, “We’re already partnering with NASA, with NOAA, with the European Space Agency, with Cambridge University… all of these different entities have their own expertise.” Ultimately, a solution to locusts in Somalia is within reach and it requires a combination of pesticides, more accurate predictors of future outbreaks and cheaper methods of delivery for needed chemicals. If this is achievable, the multi-faceted solution would be critical in the fight for food and job security in the country, allowing the economy to flourish and crops to grow.

– Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

BECO’s Solar Power, Bringing Cheaper, Cleaner Energy to SomaliaIn June 2020, Somalia’s largest electricity provider, BECO, announced the opening of a new solar power plant in the capital city of Mogadishu. BECO is the only company that provides electricity for Mogadishu, Afgooye, Balad, Barawe, Kismayu, Marka, Jowhar and Elasha. Although the company turned to solar power primarily to cut down on the cost of diesel fuel, its decision will have the added benefit of lowering air pollution. Additionally, BECO’s solar power plant will grow in capacity over time and lower electricity bills. BECO’s solar power plant could have a significant impact on Somalis, lifting many out of poverty.

Electricity in Somalia

Lack of access to electricity is widely cited as a large contributor to poverty. Without electricity, families don’t have a non-polluting source of energy for cooking. Refrigerators are unusable. Children can’t do their homework after dark. Communities can’t access all that the Internet offers for education and upward mobility. Hospitals and schools can’t offer full services. As a result, increasing access to electricity is often a goal of development efforts.

Somalia has particularly struggled with a lack of access to electricity. Before the civil war broke out in 1991, Somalia had a national power grid that produced 70 megawatts (MW) of electricity for the whole country. But the power grid was destroyed during the war and private corporations now provide any electricity available to residents. Currently, BECO produces 35 MW of power for eight cities, which is much less than its demand of 200 MW. Many Somalis avoid using electricity in order to avoid the monthly costs as 69% of Somalis are currently living in poverty.

Power companies in Somalia heavily rely on imported fossil fuels for diesel-powered generators. These generators are CO2 emitters and can heavily pollute the air. Despite the widespread use of generators, Somalia has only 106 MW of power nationwide, according to the United States Agency on International Development. The World Bank reported in 2018 that 64% of Somalis didn’t have access to electricity.

BECO’s Solar Power Plant

Because Somalia struggles with a lack of electricity and high electric costs, BECO’s new solar power plant has the potential to positively impact many people’s lives. When it opened, the power plant had the capacity to produce 8 MW. The solar power plant is only in use four hours a day, with BECO’s preexisting generators providing the rest of the electricity that the city needs. But residents’ electric bills have already gone down.

With the addition of the solar power plant, electricity costs in Mogadishu have already dropped from $0.49 to $0.36 per kilowatt-hour. BECO had originally decided to invest in solar power because of the high cost of importing diesel fuel for generators. By cutting costs, the company can offer cleaner energy at a more affordable price.

BECO plans to invest $40 million to bring the plant’s capacity to 100 MWp by 2022. This increase would enable the power plant to produce more electricity than twice its current output. However, the success of the solar plant will depend on battery storage.

Somalia’s Potential Future with Renewable Energy

BECO’s solar power plant is just the first step in Somalia’s possible path toward renewable energy. The African Development Bank reported in a study that Somalia had a greater potential for renewable energy than any other country in Africa. Onshore wind power could produce up to 45,000 MW of electricity. Solar energy has the potential to produce 2,000 kWh/m². If other Somali electric companies follow BECO’s example, Somalia’s electrical production could increase many times over.

It’s fortunate that in Somalia’s case, solar power is more affordable than the alternative. Simple market forces might solve Somalis’ lack of access to electricity. Although constructing facilities to produce solar power is expensive, companies would be able to provide electricity more cheaply and easily if they switch from importing fossil fuels to renewable energy. As a result of this cost decrease, electric bills would drop considerably as well. Once electricity becomes significantly cheaper, more Somalis will be able to access its benefits. BECO’s solar power plant is already reducing costs, and there’s no reason to believe that this trend won’t continue.

– Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

women's rights in SomaliaSomalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa with a population of almost 14 million people. Although women and girls in Somalia consist of 50% of the country’s population, women and men are far from equal. Globally, Somalia places fourth highest on the gender inequality index. In Somalia, gender inequality is exacerbated by poverty, disability, social class and harmful practices that violate women’s rights in Somalia. Today, women in Somalia are susceptible to gender-based violence and sexual violence, an issue that is heightened in areas of conflict.

Genital Mutilation in Somalia

Common problems that perpetuate gender inequality in Somalia include female genital mutilation, child marriage, maternal mortality rates and a lack of access to fundamental tools for success, such as education, health care, credit and more. Women in Somalia, especially adolescent girls, are susceptible to undergoing genital mutilation. Often, these girls undergo this procedure before turning 13 years old, according to a 2013 report by the World Health Organization.

Somalia has the highest rate of genital mutilation, with 98% of girls undergoing the procedure. With the upsurge in coronavirus cases, girls in Somalia are forced to stay home. This leads to higher rates of genital mutilation. According to the United Nations Population Fund, the coronavirus could contribute to 2 million more instances of genital mutilation over the next decade that could have been stopped. Although genital mutilation remains legal in Somalia, the practice has no health benefits and harms women in girls in a plethora of ways as it poses health risks and robs women of the full capacity of their reproductive organs.

Maternal Mortality in Somalia

Another issue plaguing Somalia that perpetuates gender inequality is the maternal mortality rate, which is the highest of any country in the world. For children in Somalia, four in 100 infants die within the first month of their lives. Women in Somalia suffer high rates of maternal mortality due to poor health care infrastructure within the country and a lack of access to adequate services. In the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda, the central principle is “leaving no one behind.” This commitment from the United Nations involves prioritizing the rights, access and abilities of Somalian women.

Lack of Education and Leadership

In Somalia, there is a lack of women involved in political and social leadership roles. One of the reasons behind this is a lack of education. In Somalia, primary schools have one of the lowest rates of enrollment, with only 30% of children in school. Of the children in school, less than half of them are females. For girls living in rural areas, these numbers are lower. Compared to men, women in Somalia have much lower literacy levels. In Somalia, only 26% of women can read compared to 36% of men.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Somalia

Somalia remains a state of male power but there is hope that the country will become more focused on gender equality. The Somali Provisional Constitution, created in 2012, is undergoing revision. In 2021, the country is participating in a one-person-one-vote election. With the revision of the Somali constitution, there is an opportunity for empowering women and girls across the country by implementing gender equality provisions. It is hopeful that 2021 may promise more widespread opportunities for women and girls in Somalia.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SomaliaWhat do people tend to think about when they first hear the word “Somalia?” A Google search of Somalia would bring up pirates. Somalia is a small country off the coast of Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 50% of its population living in poverty. Poor living conditions and homelessness in Somalia afflict many of its citizens.

Somalia as of 2018

Government policy in Somalia is leaving the citizens out on the street. At the end of 2017, Somali government officials damaged around 3,000 homes in the city of Mogadishu. They used bulldozers to tear down houses and evicted people from their homes. In 2018, the government displaced more than 2 million people living in Somalia. Moreover, the number of homeless citizens in the nation reached millions.

Droughts have left the second-largest city in Somalia with hundreds of homeless children. Interviews with the children of Hargeisa revealed terrible conditions in which children left their homes due to neglect and loss of means. Moving from rural to urban cities has resulted in these children living on the street, addicted to smelling glue to ease the pain required to fight for their lives. The drought along with a lack of food, water and shelter has resulted in child death, every day in Somalia.

Homelessness in Somalia

Somalia is in grave need of humanitarian aid. Whether due to droughts, violence or politics — millions of Somali citizens have been displaced from their homes. Homelessness in Somalia has progressively become a more urgent issue. In October of 2019, flooding washed away thousands of homes, separating families. Another factor affecting homelessness in Somalia is the migration of citizens from rural areas to cities. People moving into urban areas are settling in tents with little protection.

Poor sanitation is also a significant issue in Somalia. The lack of proper housing combined with a lack of water and food can increase the risk of disease. The number of people affected by malnourishment in 2019 was in millions. Furthermore, this tragedy has a major effect on children. Malnourishment is one of the leading causes of death for 14% of children less than age five. The lack of humanitarian aid in Somalia is also causing citizens to flee from home and move toward urban housing. Those who choose to move, settle in “makeshift shelters” which increase their exposure to terrorism and abuse.

Hope for Somalia

Overall, homelessness in Somalia is the result of multiple factors. Violence and terrorism cause a majority of people to flee from their homes. Yet, forced evictions pose a major threat to families in the agricultural sector as well. Changing weather patterns and year-long droughts result in death, famine and the loss of homes. Political instability and regime changes are also an underlying cause of homelessness in Somalia.

On a more positive note, there is hope for the future of Somalia. In February of 2020, the World Bank announced it would normalize its relations with Somalia. This new relationship will go a long way in helping to grow the country politically, socially and economically. The World Bank is providing Somalia with grants of over $250 million to help reduce poverty. The grants will provide natural disaster recovery for citizens impacted by the droughts. In the same vein, these grants aim to increase security for families by improving education, the health system and providing basic, household utilities such as water.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Wikimedia Commons