Somalia's Poverty Crisis
Once ancient Egypt’s “Garden of Eden,” Somalia is facing extreme poverty amidst a civil war and growing corruption. With a growing number of pirates and terrorists, the country’s youth are at extreme risk. This article lists five facts about Somalia’s poverty crisis, how these forces are plaguing the nation and what some are doing to improve conditions.

5 Facts About Somalia’s Poverty Crisis

  1. Piracy: According to Gale General, Somalia is a haven for pirates. This is because there is no national army or police force to prevent piracy; rather, crooked regional and local warlords are happy to receive tribute and grant franchises. This factors into why national crises and famines occur in Somalia. Unfortunately, there are few options for shipping companies trying to avoid or dispel pirate attacks. There are, however, options to end Somalia’s pirate problem. The hiring of private security for vessels would prevent attacks but is costly and the International Maritime Bureau discourages it. Another option is to avoid the Gulf of Aden completely, however, this is also expensive as it would make transportation 20 to 30 days longer. The last option is the most possible: for shipping companies to operate an insurance-laden vessel.
  2. Poverty Among Youth: According to UNDP statistics, Somalia has a poverty rate of 73%, with 70% of the population being under the age of 30. Meanwhile, 67% of Somalian youth do not have employment. Save the Children reports this rate is among the highest globally. These statistics do not come without good news. Nearly 69,000 young Somalians converted to social transfers to increase their purchasing power. This translates to nearly 10,000 households, 3,000 of which include children under the age of 5. Forty thousand Somalians received asset protection, better food security and general life improvements. Translating to about 6,000 households, they are now able to promote sustainable, strong and peaceful livelihoods. All of this occurred in 2015 alone.
  3. Education: Among the struggles many Somalians face is difficulty accessing education. Somalian children usually begin their education later, though this is due to cultural influence rather than poverty. However, the number of schools is so sparse that the distance alone is a major obstacle. Although, in 2015, 3,000 youths received free education and employment promotion activities, which has indirectly helped 20,000 individuals. From the first half of the year, 65.8% of youths who have graduated from Technical & Vocational Education Training centers found good jobs that met their new expertise.
  4. Health: Life expectancy in the country is horrifically low, averaging about 52 years from birth. Civil warfare and instability have made it difficult for humanitarian aid to reach people in need. Groups have experienced limitations in providing health care and other basic needs due to excessive looting, threats by Al-Shabab directed to aid workers and a lack of security. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Parasitic Control and Transmission, 3 million children require regular treatment for intestinal worms and 300,000 more for schistosomiasis. By the time Médecins Sans Frontières International left Somalia, nearly 2,000 staff members provided free primary health care, malnutrition treatment, epidemic response and immunization campaigns. In 2012 alone, 59,000 Somalians received vaccinations. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has a commitment to expanding coverage for vaccine-preventable diseases, reducing HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis cases and strengthening healthcare programs.
  5. Civil Unrest: Al-Shabab is a terrorist organization fighting to enforce its distorted view of a fundamentalist Islamic state. The group has been one of the main causes of warfare and unrest in Somalia. When famine plagued the nation between 2010 and 2012, the group worsened conditions by putting pressure on humanitarian aid such as MSF. This resulted in 260,000 Somalians dead, half of which were under the age of 25. With the help of the African Union Mission, the Somalian government has since decreased Al-Shabab-controlled regions but roadblocks and checkpoints are still full of armed terrorists.

Looking Ahead

Despite the growth of terrorist organizations and attacks against humanitarian aid, many organizations have a commitment to providing foreign aid and helping during Somalia’s poverty crisis. WHO has dedicated its efforts to expanding coverage for vaccine-preventable diseases, building capacity for reductions in diseases and strengthening programs concerning health for women and children. It is also working on strengthening the health system and preparing for any outbreak and crisis responses. Save the Children also has three core areas for aid including sensitive social protection, sensitive livelihoods and transitions to work. To the dismay of Al-Shabab, these brave volunteers are too stubborn to abandon Somalia. One day, hopefully, the country will become the “Garden of Eden” once again.

– Marcella Teresi
Photo: Flickr

Child soldier in SomaliaSince 1991, the Federal Republic of Somalia has been involved in an ongoing civil war being fought between the transitional federal government (TFG) and al-Shabab militants.

This civil war continues to acquire worldwide attention for its recruitment of child soldiers, often used by al-Shabab and the Somali National Army (SNA).

Child Soldiers in Somalia

Child soldiers are children or individuals under the age of 18 who are used for any military purpose. As of 2016, 1,915 children have been recruited and used in the Somali civil war.

The number of child soldiers in Somalia has almost doubled since 2015 because of an increase in al-Shabab abduction cases. Out of 950 children abducted since 2015, 87 percent were abducted by al-Shabab. The SNA is also responsible for 920 cases of child soldiers. Here are 10 key facts about child soldiers in Somalia.

Top 10 Facts About Child Soldiers in Somalia

  1. Child soldiers are not only used to fight in the war. Though some children serve as combatants, others also serve as porters, messengers, spies and cooks. Young girls are forced to marry al-Shabab militants or recruited as sexual slaves in brothels.
  2. Children are recruited as soldiers because they can be easily coerced. They are more likely to comply and be easily influenced than adults. Al-Shabab relies on recruiting child soldiers because they are easier to manipulate.
  3. Seventy percent of child soldiers have been recruited by al-Shabab. Al-Shabab has recruited and trained children as young as age nine to be combatants. Over 50 percent of al-Shabab members are believed to be children, according to the U.N.
  4. Poverty and living in a combat zone can increase the probability of a child becoming a child soldier. Some poor children decide to join a military organization if there is a lack of access to education or to end a poverty cycle. Living in a combat zone also causes separations between children and their families.
  5. Child soldiers and children in Somalia endured 18 cases of denial of humanitarian access to children. Clan militias (10), al-Shabab (5), the SNA (2) and Puntland armed forces (1) are responsible for the grave violation.
  6. Hardships and abuse do not end when child soldiers are arrested and detained. The special circumstances of children who were recruited and coerced into war activity are unrecognized. Child soldiers in detention are threatened, tortured and forcibly sign confessions.
  7. In 2001, SAACID implemented the first Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program in Mogadishu, Somalia. SAACID (pronounced ‘say-eed’ in Somali, meaning ‘to help’) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on improving the lives of women, children and the poor. Programs were created by the U.N. to reintegrate child soldiers into society, but these still lack the protection of rights of children. Former child soldiers of al-Shabab also fear to leave DDR compounds and possible reprisal from al-Shabab.
  8. Once reintegrated, former child soldiers have difficulty finding a job with little to no skills or education. UNICEF and INTERSOS offer vocational training programs for former Somali child soldiers. The program offers training in plumbing, carpentry, electrical and tailoring. In 2016, over 900 former Somali child soldiers received these services.
  9. The SNA takes measures to improve the protection of children. The SNA formed a plan of action with the U.N. that follows Security Council resolutions 1539 and 1612.
  10. The Dallaire Initiative establishes a child protection advisor in the African Union Mission of Somalia (AMISOM). The British Peace Support Training Team in Kenya will train members from AMISOM, SNA and the Somali National. The training will instruct how to counteract the use of child soldiers.

AMISOM and Future Developments

AMISOM held a forum with the security sector and AMISOM military in November 2017. The meeting primarily focused on the disadvantages of recruiting child soldiers and policies and law enforcement that can prevent it.

According to Musa Gbow, AMISOM’s Child Protection Advisor and coordinator of the workshop, “We have to ensure that the Federal Government and Federal member states continue to work together especially with regards to dealing with the prevention of the recruitment and use of children as soldiers in the conflict in Somalia.”

Recent developments, like Gbow’s dedication to creating a child protection policy at the federal and regional level, create hope for the futures of all children of armed conflict.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr

food shortages in somalia
Three years ago, Somali residents experienced one of the worst famines in history. The devastating epidemic resulted in over a quarter of a million deaths across the country. With severe droughts currently plaguing the nation, officials are concerned that more lives will be lost as the country spirals back into famine.

Al-Shabab, a militant terrorist group based in Somalia, has been preventing aid and relief services from reaching those in need. The group has blocked roadways, prohibiting standard trade from reaching millions of people. In addition, extreme droughts have wiped out a great percentage of livestock and local crops. In some areas, including the province of Bakool, residents state that it hasn’t rained since last October.

“Lack of food and water is our biggest challenge now,” says Bakool Commissioner, Mohamed Abdi Mohamed. “Food is too expensive even for those with money. The town is under a blockade.”

Since al-Shabab began erecting blockades, prices for food and other basic necessities have more than tripled. This has caused many to plunge further into poverty and over a million people have been forced to leave their homes. A large number of people have set out in search of food and water themselves, though, with the continuous drought, many have died along the way. Others have transferred to refugee camps where they often receive little to no assistance.

Rebels have intercepted food deliveries intended for thousands of starving people in Somalia. They are currently keeping food products locked away in warehouses in the capital city of Mogadishu. Now, the only way that relief services are able to reach people in these areas is through deliveries of airlifted goods. Though this form of distribution is costly, many international organizations are doing their best to continue relief services.

An estimated 1.6 billion dollars is needed to save the 2.9 million lives at stake. As of yet, only half of this amount as been reached. The UN is currently urging international aid groups and individuals to raise awareness of the situation and to help in funding relief efforts.

Meagan Douches

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post, UN
Photo: Flickr


Within two days of each other, recent attacks in Kenya have left at least 64 people dead. On June 15 in Mpeketoni, Kenya, at least 49 people were killed and another 12 women were abducted by the attackers. The very next day a similar attack took place in the nearby town of Lamu and killed another 15 people. These events immediately led to protests by those living in Mpeketoni, claiming that the government had been ignoring them, thus highlighting a general lack of security in Kenya.

Kenya has been increasingly targeted by the al-Shabab militant group, as the extremist Islamic group has claimed responsibility for some of the most recent attacks that have taken place in the past months. However, there are a couple of characteristics that make these most recent attacks stand out from the others, most notably the location and nature of the attack. Mpeketoni is a farming village, not known to be a tourist attraction, unlike many of the previous targets of similar attacks.

Representatives from al-Shabab have claimed credit for the attack. According to al-Shabab, the attack was done in retaliation against the Kenyan troops that had been placed in Somalia and the subsequent Muslim deaths at their hands. However, the attacks that took place in Mpeketoni and Lamu are noticeably different from other attacks launched by al-Shabab. Not only was the attack directed at a village instead of a larger town or city, but only men were killed and women were abducted. This is in stark contrast to the indiscriminate violence that the group has been traditionally known for. If it was al-Shabab that committed this crime, it could possibly be an attempt to help the group clean up their grotesque image and reputation.

The aftermath of the attacks were further complicated when Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the attacks were not committed by al-Shabab, but instead were politically motivated. In an official statement, Kenyatta said that the attacks were “well planned, orchestrated and politically motivated ethnic violence against the Kenyan community. This therefore was not an al-Shabab attack. Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of a heinous crime.”

What’s especially intriguing about his statement is that no specific ethnicity, organization or group was named. The government under Kenyatta’s rule has been criticized for not protecting its citizens and increasing national security. Because of this, the statement could potentially be an attempt from the government to ease the pressure it has been facing recently.

However, this statement from Kenyatta could cause more harm than good. By citing political motivations, Kenyatta could potentially reignite ethnic tensions that have been simmering under the radar for many years. The potential for ethnic conflict looms large, but there are already noticeable consequences from the attack.

The tourist industry has already plummeted and negatively affected the economy, which is a major form of income for the country. In addition to the already tallied death count, these attacks could have further humanitarian consequences. It could lead to people fleeing the area, greater insecurity in the area and potential escalation of conflict in the already tense region.

All of these remain possibilities, but the public has yet to see the full effect these events will have on the government and stability of the already fragile Kenyan nation.

— Andre Gobbo

Sources: BBC, Kenya Red Cross, Reuters
Photo: War Is Boring