The Impact of the Somalia Famine in 2011The Horn of Africa is the easternmost region of Africa. It is comprised of four countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. In 2011, the countries in the Horn of Africa were severely impacted by what was known as the “worst drought in 60 years.” Somalia was affected the worst due to a combination of extreme weather conditions and civil disorder. On July 20, 2011, the U.N. declared a famine in southern and central Somalia, specifically in Lower Shabelle, Mogadishu and the Bay area where acute malnutrition rates among children exceeded 30 percent. People were unable to access basic necessities. More than two people per 10,000 were dying daily. Inevitably, the famine led to high mortality rates. Nearly 260,000 people died by the end of the 2011 Somalia famine with more than half of the victims being children under five years old.

Cause and Effect of the 2011 Drought

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, cited poor rainfall for two consecutive seasons was the cause of the severe 2011 East Africa drought. Crops in Somalia are typically planted when the first rain of the season occurs in either March or April. However, the rains were late and inadequate, which caused late planting and harvesting.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network had predicted the harvest in southern Somalia to be 50 percent below average. In addition to this, pastures were sparse due to the intensifying drought, which ultimately led to the rapid loss of livestock. Crop failure coupled with poor harvests and limited livestock reduced food availability. As a result, food prices increased substantially. This ultimately intensified the severe food crisis in Somalia.

Government vs. al-Shabaab

Due to limited resources, a conflict began to grow over food and water. Additionally, civil disorder worsened the famine conditions as the militant Islamic group, al-Shabaab, was at war with the government over control of the country. Food aid was delayed in south-central Somalia—two al-Shabaab controlled regions—because the terrorist group banned numerous humanitarian agencies from distributing food and assistance to starving citizens of the region.

Al-Shabaab threatened citizens with brutal punishment, including execution, if they dared try to escape the region. Despite these terroristic threats, 170,000 citizens of southern Somalia fled to Kenya and Ethiopia to escape the famine conditions that plagued the country. Unfortunately, this resulted in a substantial number of deaths due to severe malnutrition, overpopulated and unsanitary living conditions.

Foreign Aid to Somalia

The United Nations estimated that 3.2 million people in Somalia were in need of immediate help. At least 2.8 million of those citizens were inhabitants of south Somalia. Numerous United Nations agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), united to provide relief to the victims of the 2011 Somalia famine. Although the conflict between rival groups initially left the south-central region of Somalia isolated from foreign aid, humanitarian agencies persisted in helping the citizens of Somalia.

The United Nations assisted in raising more than $1 billion for relief efforts across the region to reduce malnourishment and mortality rates. In addition to this, heavy rains in the fall season replenished the land, allowing a successful crop season and a bountiful harvest. In February 2012, the lethal conditions that once swept across the nation had improved. The United Nations declared the famine that plagued Somalia was finally over.

Where Does Somalia Stand Now?

In June 2019, the United Nations declared that countries of the Horn of Africa were at risk of another famine due to another drought. Five million people were at risk of this potential famine with Somalians accounting for a majority of the at-risk population. The Under-Secretary-General and emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock, stated that he allocated $45 million from the U.N. emergency relief fund to help purchase food and other basic necessities. A majority of the $45 million was allocated for Somalia as 2.2 million people could face another severe food crisis similar to the 2011 Somalia famine.

The United Nations recognized that Somalia has suffered from several occurrences of food insecurity. The organization has taken the initiative to prevent another famine from occurring in Somalia by acting early, allocating funds and raising awareness about the issue.

Arielle Pugh
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Mogadishu
Mogadishu is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, withstanding famine, drought, war and terrorist occupations to earn this title. Mogadishu is also a budding tech hub, home to coffee shops, new colleges and even a TedX conference. Underneath these contrasting descriptions of Somalia’s capital city lie two issues that continue the cycle of poverty for the majority of residents, famine and terrorism. The root causes of many of the following 10 facts about poverty in Mogadishu can be traced back to these two underlying issues.

10 Facts About Poverty in Mogadishu

  1. The issue of poverty in Mogadishu is being worsened by famine in Somalia’s countryside. More than 500,00 Somalis have been heading toward Mogadishu in search of food, water, and shelter, and around 100,000 have reached the borders of Mogadishu. They are desperately in need of food assistance.
  2. Camps have been set up around Mogadishu to deal with the influx of famine refugees; however, they have been described as “no man’s land”. Leftover members of the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab have attacked international humanitarian workers trying to provide basic services to those living in the camps. For example, a convoy from the World Food Programme was hit by a roadside bomb on May 15, 2017.
  3. This is not the first time a famine has affected the quality of life and poverty rates in Mogadishu. In 2011, a deadly famine raged the Horn of Africa, with Somalia unable to escape its effects. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people moved to Mogadishu to escape the famine’s effects and few have plans to return home. Even though the economy is said to be rapidly growing, most who fled to the city live in settlements and subsist on odd jobs to meet their basic needs. There are concerns that the huge number of young, unemployed people in camps may provide the opportunity for extremism to take hold.
  4. The unemployment rate in Mogadishu in 2016 was 66 percent with 74 percent being women. This high unemployment rate, paired with large population growth and the constant threat of violence, has earned Mogadishu the title of the “world’s most fragile city”.
  5. Organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP) work in Mogadishu to support some of the most impoverished parts of the population. Namely, female-headed households, families with children under age 5 and the elderly. Their soup-kitchen style meal centers serve approximately 80,000 a day. WFP is also working with the European Union’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department (ECHO) to provide financial assistance to families in need.
  6. There is concern over disease outbreaks, such as cholera, migrating from the countryside to Mogadishu along with those escaping the famine. One employee of the Mercy Corps describes the hospital conditions in Mogadishu as “overwhelming”. When dealing with outbreaks of cholera overcrowding and a lack of resources prove deadly: “The hospital is so overstretched that there is no room or time to properly screen and separate or quarantine the incoming patients, so kids with measles and cholera are side-by-side with kids who are malnourished, but not infected — yet.”
  7. Around 5,000 boys live on the streets of Mogadishu. This group of boys is part of a number children who have been left in the city to fend for themselves. One boy who was interviewed said his family lost everything in the 2011 famine and as a consequence, he was left because they could no longer provide for him.
  8. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s Al-Qaeda franchise, occupied the capital for almost a quarter of a century. To this day, they continue to have control over two neighborhoods of the city where it is impossible for police and government forces to enter. The group often attacks the international airport.
  9. Despite progress being made, terror attacks continue to disrupt the lives of millions. In 2016, Mogadishu suffered at least 46 terrorist attacks. In 2017, al-Shabaab attacks have killed or wounded more than 771 people.
  10. Poverty and climate change are intimately connected in Mogadishu. Just last year, six people died due to some of the heaviest rainfalls the country has seen in over three decades, with more than 750,000 having been affected through property loss. The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq underscored the importance of getting to the root of the consequences climate change has had on poverty

Looking Towards Mogadishu’s Future

While these 10 facts about poverty in Mogadishu suggest a bleak future, that is not entirely the case. Some experts believe that the rapid growth of Mogadishu will actually spur economic transformation as long as it is accompanied by international aid and careful management. Michael Keating, the U.N. special representative in Somalia, argues that “The massive shift into urban areas can be an opportunity. It is the way of the future, it is what needs to be done to build a different economy, a different country. But that needs huge investment.” More support needs to be given to reduce the suffering of the Somalian population.

Georgie Giannopoulos
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Somalia
Somalia, located at the Horn of Africa, is a country with colorful and diverse traditions, but harsh conditions. Life is not only affected by the climate, but also the treacherous political environment. In this article, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Somalia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Somalia

  1. Somalia has four seasons, two rainy and two dry ones. These seasons are combined with some of the highest mean temperatures worldwide. These conditions make farming incredibly difficult, in fact, only 0.05 percent of the land is inhabited by permanent crops. Most agricultural employment takes place through livestock. Somalia is also a large exporter of bananas, sorghum, corn, coconuts and rice. However, without consistent trade, much of this has gone to waste and has created a famine.
  2. There is virtually no infrastructure in many parts of the country due to the ongoing civil war. This affects the ability of a community to access clean water. Only 34 percent of individuals have access to sanitation services and, because plumbing is uncommon in many rural areas, 50 percent of individuals in these areas practice open defecation. Currently, progress on this issue is created through building wells, as well as implementing community programs to improve sanitation. Mercy USA has built over 580 wells in order to improve water access in Somalia. The WASH program is implementing underground wells that are attached to solar-powered sanitation systems.
  3. Another one of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Somalia relates to clean water access and adequate health care facilities. In 2017, there were over 79,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea or cholera alone. Only 6 percent of Somali residents have access to antenatal doctor’s appointments. The transmission of infectious diseases is amplified by the nomadic tendencies of pastoral clans, and the presence of large refugee camps. The WHO and UNICEF have been able to decrease measles outbreaks by administering vaccines to over 45,000 children in these camps. Nearly 50 percent of children under the age of 1 have been vaccinated for this disease.
  4. Women and children face danger on a daily basis. Armed men often take sexually violent acts against women and girls without prosecution. Children are recruited and indoctrinated by the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab. Somalia is ranked as one of the worst five places to be a woman in the world due to the widespread practice of Sharia law and restriction of gender-based freedoms. There is also limited access to health care and the prevalence of human trafficking. The Somali federal government did implement an incredibly comprehensive Sexual Offences Bill in May 2018, the bill that criminalizes sexual offenses.
  5. According to the WHO, the average life expectancy of a Somali individual is 53 years. The average expectancy of an individual to live a healthy life is only 45 years. Due to a lack of access to health care services and adequate sanitation, most adults die of infectious disease. Upon birth, only 9 percent of women are attended by a health professional. Maternal, neonatal and nutritional deaths account for approximately 18,000 deaths across both genders.
  6. The federal government only controls part of the country and formal economic activity is limited to the urban areas. Businesses are scarce due to the probability of looting and high inflation. It is 137 percent more expensive to live in Mogadishu, country’s capital, than in Tokyo. The main income of the country is international trade, but constant civil discourse prohibits this sector from experiencing significant growth. The new Public Financial Management bill should increase the government’s revenue security and control of expenses.
  7. There are two seceded states in the north: Somaliland and Puntland created after the civil war. Constant border disputes between the three regions have created unrest and violence. Around 2.1 million individuals have been displaced by federal government evictions, random acts of violence and climatic conditions. Foreign aid has made efforts to provide assistance to displaced peoples, but Al-Shabaab placed sanction prohibiting humanitarian organizations.
  8. The split between Puntland, Somaliland and the Somali Republic causes constant border disputes. There is no judiciary system to solve these issues and these disputes devolve into violent attacks. The influx of pastoral clans and refugees into major cities and ports during the dry season cause looting and disease.
  9. The government provides exponentially less health assistance than nongovernmental organizations. Regions within WHO jurisdiction have nearly twice the utilization of health services than regions without it. Maternal and child mortality rates are also much lower in these areas. Less than 50 out of 1,000 children die versus approximately 150 out of 1,000 in regions without aid. The Somali federal government has increased spending on health care services and has had 88 percent of the population for tuberculosis tested in regions without organizations’ assistance.
  10. Around 2.1 million people have been displaced internally in refugee camps. The surrounding countries have placed sanctions on incoming peoples seeking asylum due to limited resources. Those seeking asylum are also unable to travel across the disputed borders of Somaliland and Puntland because of convoys along them. With large numbers of people moving around so sporadically, it is also hard to create a consistent source of nutrition.

Poverty and civil war are rampant issues that result in many consequences for Somalia. Humanitarian aid is the main source of help in improving living conditions for over 5.4 million people that are in desperate need. Between the assistance of these organizations and the growing effectiveness of the federal government, the people of Somalia may have a decent chance to live in a comfortable environment.

– Emily Triolet

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Somali Civil War
A conflict that began in 1991, the Somali civil war has ravaged the Horn of Africa ever since. The civil war began as an armed resistance to the Siad Barre regime, which grew into a much larger conflict between various competing factions after the overthrow of Barre.


10 Facts about the Somali Civil War


  1. Over the nearly 30 years of conflict, the war has claimed upwards of 500,000 lives, according to estimates from the Associated Press and Africa News in 2007. Since then, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset reports falling numbers of fatalities in Somalia, although more than 3,000 people continue to die in the conflict each year.
  2. The lasting effects have helped trigger continuous famines and food shortages over the years, with the most recent beginning last year and continuing to today. Not only is food in short supply, the price of a jug of water has shot up more than tenfold and can cost nearly half a day’s wages for some families.
  3. The militant organization al-Shabaab is in control of large tracts of land in southern Somalia that comprise much of the nation’s most fertile lands. This has aided al-Shabaab’s recruitment during famines, as they can promise to feed the poor in exchange for joining the group.
  4. The United Nations Security Council will soon have to vote on whether to extend or end the weapons embargo on Somalia, as the current embargo is set to expire on November 15, 2017. The embargo is a measure, supported by most members of the UNSC, that seeks to take away al-Shabaab’s funding and ways of arming themselves.
  5. Though foreign aid workers are working to help alleviate famine in the areas controlled by Somalia’s African Union-backed government, aid workers are banned from helping within territory controlled by al-Shabaab. This has led to people dying of hunger and thirst mere miles from people able to assist them.
  6. Though there have been a variety of different factions vying for control over the three decades of the civil war, al-Shabaab is currently the leading opposition to peace in the region. The terrorist group numbers between 7,000 and 9,000 members, and seeks to seize control of Somalia and bring it under extremist Islamic control.
  7. One of the major players opposing al-Shabaab are the forces of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM is comprised of some 22,000 soldiers from the armies of surrounding African nations that seek to support the legitimate government of Somalia. Since the mission began in 2007, AMISOM has lost upwards of 1,000 soldiers in combat with al-Shabaab, the most recent coming in a late July ambush on an AMISOM patrol, which cost the lives of at least 12 Ugandan soldiers.
  8. According to data from the United Nations Development Programme, 73 percent of Somalians live in poverty and the average life expectancy in the nation is only 52 years. Though the government of Somalia is beginning to make progress, the instability from years of war is making progress hard and keeping the nation in flux.
  9. As a result of the war, over one million Somalians have been displaced from their homes and livelihoods. Those displaced are in serious trouble, as the government still lacks the capabilities to adequately aid them and their situation is only exacerbated by the rising famine and drought.
  10. United States aid to Somalia has been falling in recent years, from its highest at $461 million in 2012 to a mere $212 million in 2016. For a fledgling nation that faces the dual plights of internal conflict and severe famine, such aid is extremely important to ensuring the well-being of their citizens.

The above 10 facts about the Somali civil war are just a brief overview of the long and complex conflict. Though things appear to be improving in Somalia, with the government finally gaining a more secure foothold, the famine and attacks by groups like al-Shabaab still leave the nation in a precarious situation.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Kenya
During the early 1990s, Kenya formed a repatriation program, the Dadaab refugee camp, for thousands of displaced Somalians escaping rebel attacks, drought, continuous violence and abuse.

  1. Islamic extremists displaced thousands of Kenyans housed in the Dadaab refugee camp. Now the country is requesting that more than 260,000 refugees in Kenya return to Somalia for concern of Somalia-based al-Shabab Islamic extremists launching attacks within the Kenyan camp. After numerous deadly attacks from 2011-2015, the government announced in May the closure of Dadaab for immediate national security interests.
  2. World leaders don’t agree with deporting refugees back to Somalia. Kenyan officials are tentatively closing Dadaab at the end of 2016. However, the Human Rights Watch says sending refugees back to Somalia doesn’t meet international standards of a voluntary return.
  3. They have Somalian blood, but are Kenyan-bred. On average, refugees are in exile for about 20 years, according to the U.N. refugee agency. In Northeastern Kenya, nestled in close proximity to Somalia’s border, the Dabaab camp has been home to residents for a quarter of a century. Some have never stepped foot on Somalian soil.
  4. Refugees are being lured with a cash advance to return. Many Somalian refugees were told they would be deprived of a $400 U.N. cash grant because of forced extradition, according to the Human Rights Watch. Dadaab refugees have been given inadequate information about potential dangers during their forced exit.
  5. Resources in Somalia don’t exist for the influx of Kenyan refugees to return. Some Somalian refugees who returned to their home country have fled back to Kenya again due to continuous violence and nonexistent resources and services. The deported refugees seeking asylum were unable to reestablish themselves in Somalia, and now they are denied access to refugee registration, or asylum procedures in Dadaab. This leaves a large percentage of displaced peoples without legal status or access to food.
  6. Force and coercion used on refugees are not tolerated by world leaders. While the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta claims the process of repatriation will be voluntary and humane, countries internationally say they will reprimand evictions using force. However, many refugees inhabiting Kenya agree to the return for fear of coercion and force if they stay in Kenya, but they will face danger, persecution and hunger in Somalia.
  7. Refugees are involuntarily returning to insecure conditions and poverty. “The Kenyan authorities are not giving Somali refugees a real choice between staying and leaving, and the UN refugee agency isn’t giving people accurate information about security conditions in Somalia,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch. “There is no way these returns can be considered voluntary.”
  8. Kenyan refugees have no choice but to leave. Dadaab’s refugees reported feeling trapped by the government’s decision to shut down the camp. Many are afraid of returning to Somalia, but simultaneously fear the handcuffs and deportation of staying in Dadaab until the end of the year.
  9. The Dadaab refugee camp is a city full of resources and services. The refugee camp is the largest safe haven worldwide, and was initially created to host roughly 90,000 refugees searching for relief from rebels fighting the Somalian government in 1991. Now it spans five camps with makeshift cinemas, soccer leagues, bustling businesses, schools, hospitals and a graveyard.
  10. Refugees are forced into danger and left without community support. In mid-August, roughly 24,000 Somalian refugees had left Dadaab and gone back to their country of origin since the beginning of the repatriation process in December 2014. Kenya’s government reported to Human Rights Watch that in mid-August they were aiding the return of 1,000 refugees per day. Negotiations of repatriations are ongoing because refugees aren’t being sufficiently assisted upon their return to Somalia.

Rachel Williams

Photo: Flickr

Following a joint operation that began in August 2014, the Somalia government is taking back the lands that the Islamic militant group seized control over.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced on Oct. 27 that, “Al-Shabaab has lost all its territory …” This announcement came after months of strategic air strikes and reconquering cities in Somalia by Allied forces.

Joint Operation Indian Ocean was sent into motion on Sept. 1, including the Somalia military, AMISOM (African Union Mission to Somalia) and the United States. AMISOM is a regional peacekeeping mission controlled by the African Union. The U.S. ignited the operation with an airstrike against the terror group.

“U.S. special operations forces using manned and drone aircraft destroyed an encampment and a vehicle using several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions,” Fox News reported this Pentagon statement in order to confirm the strike.

Later that week, the Pentagon confirmed that it was in that very strike that Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed, a victory not just for the United States, but for all groups involved in the operation.

Since, the Somalia military and AMISOM have been able to retake territory of Somalia that was taken by the terrorist group since it began its strike against the country in 2006. AMISOM took to Twitter to show its followers and the world that progress was being made by posting a map. The map showed the territory loss from January of this year to October, depicting Al-Shabaab’s loss of over more than half of its conquered territory.

U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said this Oct. 29, “Al Shabab’s power is declining, but it is not gone. I congratulate the Somali National Army and AMISOM for their advances and the contributions to peace and stability of Somalia. It is critical that they now secure roads to newly recovered areas to enable commercial traffic and humanitarian access,” UPI reported.

– Kori Withers

Sources: UPI, UPI 2, BBC, CNN, Fox News
Photo: Flickr

somali hunger

Famine entails a widespread and extensive scarcity of food, attributed to a “triple failure” of food production, access to food and political response by governments and international donors.

According to the U.N.’s five-step scale of Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, famine (Stage 5) requires that “more than two people per 10,000 die each day, acute malnutrition rates are above 30 percent, all livestock is dead and there is less than 2,100 kilocalories of food and 4 liters of water available per person per day.”

By the time the U.N. declares a Stage 5 situation, there has already been massive loss of life. From 2010 to 2012, Somalia was gripped by a crippling famine that killed nearly 260,000 people. Half of these deaths were children under the age of five.

Somalia was devastated by a two-year drought, which caused reduced harvests, food inflation and a steep drop in labor demand and household incomes. The country had already been suffering from high levels of malnutrition and child mortality, but the drought skyrocketed numbers even further. It also killed off valuable livestock, the only assets many families possessed.

Learn what causes poverty.

But what turned a natural drought into a man-made catastrophe was the inability of Somalia’s government and donors to tackle the issue of chronic poverty. There was already a serious lack of development and investment in basic infrastructure. During the famine, healthcare professionals reacted too slowly and the government itself was in shambles.

Somalia has been entangled in a civil war for the past two decades, and the subsequent violence and upheaval have greatly contributed to the famine.

During the 2010 to 2012 famine, the Islamist group al-Shabaab was at war with the government. Another factor was that the United States—Somalia’s main source of food aid—had discontinued their supply of aid in 2009 to avoid providing food to al-Shabaab.

Since the civil war began, and after an inadequate U.S.-led intervention attempt, the West largely withdrew from Somalia’s affairs. Having failed to stabilize the state and provide the needy with food, a worrisome pattern emerged. Humanitarian aid and food relief were only brought into Somalia with the permission of local war lords or clans, who used violence to control access to resources.

The U.S. withdrawal of aid in 2009 also pressured international aid organizations to do the same, because they feared U.S. backlash should they continue to provide food or supplies.

The U.N. first declared famine in Somalia’s Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions—both controlled by al-Shabaab. The militant group denied that there were any food shortages whatsoever, forbade famine victims from fleeing the country and banned international aid agencies from operating within its territories.

The Obama administration responded by providing waivers to aid organizations to protect against prosecution. This shifted all blame of food aid blockages to al-Shabaab, which subsequently led to a sharp drop in public support for the group. Bereft of support and power, Al-Shabaab withdrew from the capital city of Mogadishu, which they had occupied since 2008.

The U.N. declared the Somali famine over in February 2012. However, the strain on al-Shabaab and similar organizations continues to grow as people demand more access to food aid. Ethiopia and Kenya have considered training Somali militia to fight al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations, but this could prove to be a dangerous move in such a conflict-ridden country.

In the 21st century, the public has the ability to completely eradicate famine, and has done so on every continent except Africa. In order to fight famine successfully, a variety of steps must be taken. More funding must be invested in African food production to prevent droughts from completely annihilating crops. There must be more support for farmers and pastoralists to raise hardier crops with cheaper inputs and learn about risk management in the case of a disaster. More aid must also go to infrastructure investment and fortification of unstable markets.

Currently, emergency aid is vital to helping Somalians gain a foothold after this devastating famine. However, effort must also be made to examine the root causes, in order to prevent similar disasters from occurring in the future. The world was slow to act on warning signs this time, but with greater long-term investment, Somalia has the potential to deal with droughts and natural disasters effectively and without external aid.

– Mari LeGagnoux

Sources: Oxfam, SBS, Foreign Affairs, BBC
Photo: Flickr

somali food crisis
The United States government recently acknowledged the presence of over 100 military advisors who have been secretly operating in Somalia since 2007. While they are not engaged in combat missions, they have routinely assisted the Somali government by providing their tactical expertise in the Somali effort to combat Islamist militants. Those militants comprise al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization which most notably claimed responsibility for the September 2013 attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya which resulted in 67 deaths.

The African Union Mission in Somalia currently has 22,000 troops stationed in Somalia from various African countries and the United States has stated its intent to aid soldiers of the Somali National Army. However, Somalia is far from a stable country. On July 8 al Shabaab militants attacked Somali’s presidential palace in Mogadishu. They used a car bomb to blast open the gates and then proceeded onto the grounds. Their attack was eventually thwarted by Somali and AMISOM troops but the threat of violence in the nation’s capital still looms.

Despite the various armed conflicts taking place throughout the country, Somalia is faced with another pressing issue: the Somali food crisis. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently disclosed the possibility of a worsening food crisis in Somalia. This crisis would be the result of a predicted water shortage following a lackluster rain season earlier this year, rising food prices in urban areas and dwindling humanitarian assistance in the country.

The food agency also acknowledged the presence of acute malnutrition in Mogadishu which requires intensified humanitarian aid over the coming months. The displaced populace in areas like Mogadishu where armed violence has become regular has served to exacerbate the food crisis. While it is clear that the Somali government is finally receiving the military aid it needs, the food aid it also requires has not yet occurred.

— Taylor Dow

Sources: HORSEED Media, Daily Times, Fox news, CNN, Reuters
Photo: World Vision

instability in kenya
What was supposed to be a community gathering to watch countries from all over the world compete in the World Cup turned into a bloodbath in a local bar in Mpeketoni, on the coast of Kenya.

Later events showed the men wielding the weapons were part of Somalia’s Islamist group al-Shabaab. The reasoning for their attack was that they were performing revenge killings due to the Kenyan presence in Somalia and the killing of Muslims there. It appears that the victims were of a specific ethnic group — the same one as the President — and all the Muslims were spared.

This is not the first time this part of the world has dealt with ethnic cleansing-based killings. Sudan has been experiencing such events for many years as well.

As the world progresses in what seems like a direction of acceptance and tolerance, events such as this, highlighting growing instability in Kenya, push it back. The 58 people who died for being a member of a certain ethnicity will receive no explanation for their death, and more often than not these events go under the radar of national news. This type of violation of human rights needs to be highlighted to show the presence of intolerance in so many nations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has suggested a different idea, theorizing that the shootings were not a terrorist attack but a politically driven attack. This musing has heightened the tension between Kenyan political rivalries and complicated the security levels of a region that is already on the cusp of descending into greater violence.

Many are concerned that Kenyatta turning the attack into a commentary on the government will damage the future of the security situation. “Politicians are politicizing the security situation and it’s not good for anyone,” said J.M. Waiganjo, a member of the Kenyatta’s jubilee party and member of parliament.

Other analysts see Kenyatta’s statement as a sign that Kenyan terrorists groups are targeting the weak spots in the government’s security plan and purposely drawing lines between the opposing parties to bring down Kenya’s government.

Kenyatta has a difficult duty ahead of him as he must determine an appropriate and beneficial way to handle the terrorist threats while building levels of security that are lacking in Kenya.

— Elena Lopez
Sources: BBC, CNN, WSJ
Photo: BBC

The history of human rights violations against Somali citizens by their government under the rule of Siad Barre contributed to an overthrow that forced him to flee in 1991. The subsequent power vacuum led to the Somali civil war that continues to rage on to this day. For over 23 years, Somalia has been ravaged by human rights abuses, war crimes and the lack of a developed justice system to deal with these issues.

The main players at this moment are the Islamic backed forces, al-Shabaab, and the pro-government forces, the Federal Republic of Somalia, Ethiopian troops and African Union troops operating under the African Union Mission to Somalia. While the faces have changed throughout the 23 year conflict, the main points of contention  remain the same.

The Islamic forces wish for the country to become an Islamic state ruled under Sharia law, while government forces aim for the country to follow through with the constitution that founded the federal republic in 2012. Major human rights violations are committed on both sides of the Civil War, limiting positive change in the country.

Human rights violations include indiscriminate attacks against civilians, displacement of persons, restrictions on humanitarian aid, rape, recruitment and use of child soldiers, unlawful killings and torture by armed groups and armed piracy off the Somali coast. Various treaties including the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights forbid the indiscriminate use of force against civilians. According to Amnesty International, “all parties to the conflict use mortars and heavy weapons in areas populated or frequented by civilians, killing and injuring thousands of people, many of which are women and children under the age of 14.”

The killings not only affect those being killed, but they also the education of the Somalis. A report by Amnesty International states that, “in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, many schools have closed down as students and teachers fear being injured and killed on their way to school.” These indiscriminate killings by forces on both sides will lead to the further destruction of the country and its future. The Somalis need to continue their education in order to push the country towards a better path.

The topic of child soldiers has gained popularity in the last few years due to campaigns such as “Kony 2012.” The use of child soldiers is not limited to Uganda, however, and Somalia is a prime example of the horrible atrocities that occur while using them. According to a January 2013 Human Rights Watch report, “al-Shabaab has increasingly targeted children for recruitment, forced marriage, and rape, and has attacked teachers and schools.”

However, government forces have also used child soldiers, as described later in the same article. “In July 2012, the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] signed a plan of action against child recruitment; yet the same month, 15 children were identified among a group of new recruits sent to a European Union-funded training in Uganda.” Abuses are occurring on on both sides of the conflict, and further action may need to be taken by outside parties.

The problems with human rights violations occurring in Somalia do not seem to be getting any better. Unfortunately, humanitarian access to those who need aid is limited at the moment because of restrictions from allies to the conflict, diversion of aid and insecurity. The few humanitarian workers still in the country are being targeted, further limiting access to much needed aid.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Photo: Global Post