common diseases
Due to the prevalence of poverty in the area, there are many common diseases in Somalia. With a life expectancy of 55 years, Somalians’ quality of life suffers from ailments that people in a developed country might overlook. Whether transmitted through food, water, animals or other people, common diseases in Somalia burden local populations and may make traveling and volunteering risky. Greater efforts toward disease prevention and social development would improve accessibility to Somalians in need.

In Somalia, diarrhea and other common infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and cardiovascular diseases are the deadliest. Though not necessarily as deadly, mosquito-borne malaria has the third-largest burden on the people of Somalia when measuring in years of healthy life lost. Neonatal disorders and malnutrition are also common diseases in Somalia.

These diseases often spread due to poor sanitation, leaving many people consuming food or water contaminated with fecal matter or sewage. Diarrhea is a symptom of diseases such as typhoid fever, Hepatitis A and cholera. Other common symptoms of these diseases include high fevers, fatigue, jaundice and abdominal pain. If left untreated, mortality rates can reach up to 20 percent.

HIV/AIDS spreads through bodily fluid contamination and is commonly associated with unprotected sexual contact. Somalia has over 26,000 people living with HIV/AIDS with 51 percent of them being women. Children under five are also vulnerable to the autoimmune disease. Since HIV/AIDS is considered a taboo subject directly associated with promiscuity, the stigma surrounding it prevents further progress in disease prevention.

Tuberculosis is an airborne illness, and inhaling only a few germs can cause infection in nearby individuals. Common symptoms include cough with sputum or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Especially in Somalia, HIV and tuberculosis go hand in hand. Statistics show that HIV-positive people are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop tuberculosis than people without HIV. Although tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease, Somalia’s social and economic status limits access to valuable medicine.

When assessing the common diseases in Somalia, the country’s health sector requires drastic improvement to alleviate the deadly effects of illness. The most vulnerable people to disease are refugees or have been internally displaced by years of conflict and drought. Insecurity, especially prominent in central and southern Somalia, limits access to health resources. The few clinics and hospitals available cannot support the number of people who need treatment.

The most common victims of poverty and political unrest are disease-ridden, injured and malnourished. Somalia is home to some of the worst health indicators in the world, but with support at the governmental level for greater stability, the health situation could improve. Work in nutrition, sanitation and prevalence of medicine and vaccinations all contribute toward a healthier Somalia.

Allie Knofczynski

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Somalia: A Fight for Rebirth
Since being thrown into anarchy following the coup against President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia’s political terrain has seen slow and stagnated progress. Dubbed the Horn of Africa, Somalia has been attempting to rebuild itself after more than two decades of political instability and violent infighting. Human rights in Somalia are in need of vast improvements.

The country’s efforts have been widely disrupted by insurgent uprisings and terrorist groups, which have flourished in an environment of reduced economic security and weak state control. Egregious violations of human rights in Somalia have occurred from the violent uprisings as well as the inability to access adequate food, water and shelter.

In March 2017, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared Somalia’s drought a national disaster. With an estimated 43% of Somalians living below the poverty line, the dire situation has only been exacerbated by poor climate conditions. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicted that the drought had put further strain on the 6.5 million Somalis who already face resource insecurity due to years of violent conflict.

In the dry and sparse terrain of the most rural parts of Somalia, many young girls and women alike have been targets of gender-based violence as they are forced to venture further out in search of sources of food and water. UNICEF officials fear that the scope of the issue is even larger than is known, as not all cases have been reported. With gender and human rights in Somalia at continued risk, there have been fervent calls for further international engagement with the issue.

The U.S. has been quick to respond to the emergence of insurgent groups and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. Experts have called for a multifaceted approach towards eradicating poverty and improving the record of human rights in Somalia. The Human Rights Watch amongst others has articulated that military intervention in the form of drone strikes can only be a part of a much more robust strategy, especially one that does not put innocent civilians at such high risk.

On an international level, 2017 saw the U.N. Migration Agency launch a project, assisted by one million dollars in donations by China, to have emergency relief resources reach Somalia’s most vulnerable. On a domestic level, the 9th Parliament served its full-term after two decades, with the election in 2016 resulting in 17% youth and 26% women MPs, which marked a significant step forward for Somalia.

Although there is much left to be done, with an internationally sponsored government intact and multi-faceted relief projects on their way, there appears to be more hope for stability than there has been in decades for human rights in Somalia.

Sydney Nam

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Somalia
Somalia, a country in eastern Africa, is on the brink of catastrophic famine. More than half of the population of Somalia needs some sort of help regarding food. Camps providing aid are set up around the country, but even there the situation of hunger in Somalia is dire.

Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), a nonprofit organization based in Minnesota, decided to find a way to help. This organization operates on a volunteer basis to provide assistance in the battle against world hunger. Volunteers sign up for a shift to come in and pack food into bags for however long they choose. Each bag packs six meals made up of a formula researched to provide the most nutritional value for a starving person. They are all vegetarian and halal certified.

FMSC sends the food they package to at least 60 countries worldwide, constantly working to solve the problem of world hunger. But besides their normal volunteer work, the organization creates mass packing events in various locations. From June 2 through June 5, FMSC hosted its largest packing event in the history of the organization in St. Paul, Minnesota. Partnering with Love Somalia, there were over 15,000 volunteers working in 2.5-hour shifts. The volunteers packed and sent an amazing 4.9 million meals to Somalia in order to assist during the famine. It’s a start to addressing the overwhelming hunger in Somalia that equates to more than six million people who need aid.

Other major packing events have gone towards relief in Haiti, the organization’s largest recipient. In 2015, FMSC sent 78 million meals to Haiti and sends even more after hurricanes.

The United Nations writes that a “massive increase in humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to avert a famine,” especially one that resembles the famine Somalia experienced in 2011, where more than 250,000 people died of starvation. While there is still a long way to go, Feed My Starving Children has begun taking steps to help.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr

Cholera Crisis in Somalia
For the vast majority of developing countries, poor water quality and waterborne disease are the biggest contributors to mortality rates. For the people of Somalia, this reality has only been made more evident in their recent cholera crisis.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease.  It has the potential to kill its victims within hours if left untreated. Not only is the disease extremely virulent and easy to contract, but it also kills at unprecedented speed and is often difficult to detect.

The transmission of cholera gets often linked to a lack of access to clean water sources and sanitation facilities. This type of environment is particularly characteristic of the peri-urban slums of Somalia where open defecation is commonplace, and populations get crowded together.

The cholera crisis in Somalia stems from an endemic food deficiency that has plagued the country for years and has placed them on the brink of famine. Drought and extreme food insecurity have forced Somalian farmers into crowded urban areas putting an even greater strain on the limited clean water sources and contributing to the poor hygiene problem. After three consecutive years of failed rains, the current drought has resulted in more than 600 deaths. Most of these were related to acute watery diarrhea or cholera.

A humanitarian coordinator notes of the crisis: “Open defecation not only puts women’s dignity and security at risk, but it also poses a serious health hazard.” In addition to providing vaccines and treatment for existing cases of cholera, it is imperative that Somalians acknowledge the dangers of poor hygiene habits on their health and prioritize finding alternatives.

CARE Somalia is making an impact on the crisis through water, sanitation and hygiene efforts to prevent the onset of the disease. Alongside the Ministry of Health in Somalia, they reached over 250,000 people and potentially save the lives of thousands.

Another integral part of the organization’s humanitarian aid is the distribution of water purification tablets. The tablets can treat large volumes of water with chlorine and disinfect within 30 minutes, killing off bacteria that could transmit typhoid or cholera in a community’s water supply.

Since 2011, CARE invested in water infrastructure and hygiene efforts to curb another famine and improve the cholera crisis in Somalia. Although progress has been made, it is vital to keep the momentum on the project and continue prioritizing infectious disease prevention in poor slums worldwide.

Sarah Coiro

Photo: Flickr

Help People in Somalia
Somalia is in a pre-famine state, experiencing severe drought and conflict from radical groups. Both events are causing a major food crisis. A quarter of Somalia’s population is in crisis, while over 300,000 children are suffering from malnutrition. This being said, there are plenty of solutions to help people in Somalia including providing nutritional support, access to safe water supply and building prevention and treatment centers.

One way to help people in Somalia is by giving nutritional support. Children and mothers are living with multiple nutritional deprivations. Delivering food assistance will aid and prevent them from being affected by drought and conflict. Some organizations provide agricultural assistance and advancement or nutritional substitutes.

Providing access to safe water supplies is another way to help people in Somalia. Building wells in communities across Somalia enables families to settle one less worry and focus on other responsibilities such as work or school. Although there have been about 500 wells built around Somalia, the risk of contracting diseases from these water supplies is still high.

Building prevention and treatment centers in communities will help to fight these diseases in Somalia. Cholera has spread greatly across Somalia and is in need of an improved treatment plan. Health organizations are responding to such diseases and gathering to build appropriate facilities across the country.

Although there are many things that can be done on the ground, there is always a way to help from home. The simplest and effective way to help people in Somalia is to donate. Many of these acts are possible through donations. There are many campaigns standing by Somalia and its recovery.

One example of an organization to donate to is Love Army for Somalia, a supply aid campaign. Recently, the campaign has expanded into an effective one, allowing people to pair up and give monthly donations to different families in villages suffering deeply from the drought. Back on the ground, these donations are immediately sent to those families to purchase their own necessities instead of getting the packages by the middlemen.

There are many solutions as to how to help people in Somalia. From acting on the ground to donating to a variety of campaigns, every action helps. Millions are aiding Somalia during this famine. This sets the example of the impact that can be made by developing countries.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Education in Somalia
In the coastal African country of Somalia, a long history of famine and war has made it difficult for the school system to flourish. Civil conflict, an underdeveloped government and natural disasters have all served to stunt the growth of education in Somalia.

But hope is not lost—both government and nonprofit organizations are developing methods to increase access to quality schools. Below are eight facts about the country’s education system and current efforts to improve the landscape.

  1. Few children have the opportunity to attend school in Somalia, with a 30 percent average primary school enrollment rate that dips to 18 percent in secluded regions. Due to severe poverty and the nomadic culture that pervades more than half of the population, sending children to traditional schools is impractical and impossible for many families.
  2. Vast gender disparity also plagues the education system. Less than half of all Somali students are girls, and just one-quarter of women between 15 and 24 are literate, versus 37.8 percent of men.
  3. Ninety-eight percent of Somali girls undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) at some point in their lives, 80 percent between ages five and nine. Girls who attend school, though, are less likely to face the procedure.
  4. Recognizing this correlation, Somali activist Hawa Aden Mohamed established the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD) in the 1990s to create increased access to education in Somalia, especially for girls. The organization has since provided primary schooling to 800 girls and an “un-formal” education to 1,600 adolescent women.
  5. Education itself works as an agent to prevent girls from experiencing FGM. In addition, the GECPD teaches its students about the dangers of FGM and encourages them to break the cycle within their own families, as nearly two-thirds of Somali women and girls approve of the practice of FGM.
  6. Thanks to the GECPD’s work, the girls’ school enrollment rate has risen to 40 percent in the northeast region of the country, while the national average is just 24.6 percent.
  7. Raising these numbers is vital, as 70 percent of the population is under 30 years old. In addition, youth unemployment swells at 67 percent. With a better education system and ample opportunities for both boys and girls, Somalia stands a great chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and building a successful economy.
  8. Earlier this year, an education summit was held in Garowe, where The Ministry of Education in Puntland discussed education policy and curriculum with the federal government. Federal Minister of Education Abdirahman Dahir Osman announced that committees will begin working on issues within the education system and that Egypt has contributed funding to the cause. The involved organizations will soon release more information on the summit’s conclusions.

While the current circumstances may look bleak, the future holds a wealth of possibilities. With the continued support of the government and organizations such as the GECPD, education in Somalia is on track to turn around.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

An outbreak of cholera in Somalia has resulted in a total of 28,408 cholera cases and 548 deaths thus far. In April 2017 alone, 2,745 cases of cholera were reported in Somalia by the Ministry of Health. From April 10 to 16, 28 cholera-related deaths were reported across 50 districts. The situation has been exacerbated by the worst drought experienced in decades, which has coincided with the cholera outbreak in Somalia.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease, which, if left untreated, can lead to death. It is caused by the bacterium Vibro cholerae. Consumption of contaminated food and water is the main cause of the disease. Malnourished children under the age of five are especially vulnerable.

Somalia is in the midst of a severe drought due to poor rainfall and a general lack of water. It has killed livestock and crops, leaving 6.2 of 12.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The drought has greatly worsened the outbreak of cholera in Somalia.

Somalia’s humanitarian crisis is a combination of political conflict, food insecurity, displacement of people and limited health care. More than five million people are at risk of being affected by waterborne diseases, and three million people face food insecurity. The death rate has reached 14.1 percent among Somalis affected with cholera in Middle Juba and 5.1 percent in Bakool. Five hundred thousand Somalians have been internally displaced in search of water.

Dr. Adinnasir Abubakar, a cholera expert for the World Health Organization (WHO) emergencies program noted: “Ever since the drying up of the Shabelle and Juba rivers, people have been forced to move out and seek water in unfamiliar places.” The two rivers are Somalia’s perennial streams.

The Ministry of Health is working with the WHO to respond to this outbreak and implement preventive measures against cholera in Somalia. There have been integrated emergency responses in the Mogadishu, Bay and Gedo regions. Sixty health workers were trained by the Ministry of Health in cholera case management, surveillance, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and risk communications.

The first oral cholera vaccination campaign began on April 18th and is set up to target 450,000 people over one year of age to fight cholera in Somalia. There are warnings by medical staff that the number of ill patients has exceeded hospital capacity in affected regions.

Cholera is a treatable and preventable disease. To prevent cholera deaths in Somalia, oral rehydration, antibiotics and intravenous feeding are needed. Somalia’s cholera outbreak is a wake-up call for the better implementation of water and sanitation infrastructure, promotion of hygiene practices and emergency aid need.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr

Counter-terrorism laws enacted by the U.S. and U.K. are proving detrimental to potential relief efforts in certain parts of Somalia.

Somalia is experiencing the worst drought in the region in 40 years, which is threatening an estimated six million people with famine.  Two million of these people are occupying areas run by al-Shabaab.

Somalia is a country in eastern Africa that has been riddled with political turmoil and instability. Al-Shabaab, or “The Youth” as is translated from Arabic, have contributed heavily to some of the issues in Somalia. They are a product of the radical youth wing of Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts (which is no longer in existence). Al-Shabaab is banned by both the U.S. and U.K. as an active terrorist group.

For the non-radical starving and dehydrated citizens of these Somalian regions, the “bans” and anti-terrorism laws affect humanitarian efforts from reaching them. Humanitarian officials say that these laws are discouraging them from sending support for fear of prosecution, as it is impossible for them to ensure that no aid gets into the hands of members of al-Shabaab. If it did, these organizations would be at risk of going to court and possibly even being shut down.

In addition to just the aid itself, the moving of said relief aid by land in Somalia involves paying “taxes” at roadblocks that are run by various armed groups — some of which are controlled by al-Shabaab, which received an estimated $180,000 per year from aid groups at these road blocks in 2010.

David Concar, the British ambassador to Somalia, said this in an interview recently about the degree at which anti-terrorism laws affect humanitarian efforts in Somalia: “[Counter terrorist] legislation is not intended to stop — and nor should it actually stop — any aid groups from working in such areas as long as they have the necessary controls in place and they’re not deliberately supporting terrorists.”

Despite this apparent clarification, the counter-terrorism laws are still very present, and anxiety among these aid organizations remains, who say need clearer guidance from the U.S. and the U.K. in regard to relief efforts in Somalia. Politically, this “guidance” is hard to execute, as it could be interpreted as negotiations with a terrorist group.

The last major famine in Somalia was in 2011. An estimated 250,000 died as, at the very least, a contributing result of these strict anti-terrorism laws, when little to no aid made it to al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Somalia
Twenty years of conflict have led to conditions of abject poverty in Somalia, with the destruction of infrastructure, economy and institutions.

In 1991, the government collapsed, leaving the country fragmented. Even with the establishment of a new government, conflict continues in Southern Somalia, leaving the country in the midst of poverty, famine and recurring violence.

Due to independent governing bodies, two areas, Somaliland and Puntland, experience more stability with regard to socioeconomic conditions.

Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with the 2012 Human Development Index putting it among the five least-developed of 170 countries. The poverty rate is currently 73 percent. Seventy percent of the population in Somalia is under the age of 30 and the life expectancy is as low as 55 percent. Unemployment among youth is widespread, as 67 percent of youth are unemployed.

Development is low due to the challenges posed by Somalia’s humanitarian situation and the high level of insecurity, which is another factor contributing to poverty in Somalia. The region is home to more than one million refugees, many of whom are living in conditions of abject poverty. Food prices went up by 300 percent, making it hard for most of the population to buy food. Food insecurity has affected more than two million people. One in eight children under the age of five suffers from malnutrition. Only 42 percent of children go to school. Livestock management is the main source of livelihood.

Poverty in Somalia and Child Mortality

In Somalia, 857,000 people require assistance. In 2014, Somalia was at the bottom of global health rankings in terms of maternal health, child mortality, education and women’s income and political status.

Poverty in Somalia is rooted in civil conflict and limited resources, natural disasters and lack of an active central government. The conflict has emerged between clans for the two basic resources: food and water. The situation has come to political power; whoever is able to claim leadership of a clan can have a share of the limited resources and political power.

Poverty in Somalia has intensified and there exists no easy answer to ending the spiral of conflict and insecurity, which are the roots of the poverty.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr

Clean water is essential to the survival of all living things. Weather conditions in the Horn of Africa, the lack of the yearly rainy season in 2016 and an increase in sea surface temperatures have created an extreme emergency. Drought conditions have affected water quality in Somalia and have created both a food and health crisis.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), extreme drought affects more than 6.2 million people. Water quality in Somalia has deteriorated, placing 5.5 million people in danger of contracting waterborne illnesses — with half being women and children under the age of five. Drought conditions have also led to a food crisis affecting at least three million people and prompting President Abdullahi Mohamed to declare a national disaster. If conditions do not improve, the U.N. expects these numbers to double this year.

As the water quality in Somalia worsens so does the spread of diseases, such as acute watery diarrhea and cholera. More than 17,000 cases have been reported at the local Cholera Treatment Centre, and the number is expected to increase. The situation has been made worse by the food crisis, as people become undernourished and weak.

A lack of knowledge also contributes to the crisis. Ruun Ali, the mother of four-year-old Asma, said, “We don’t know what causes it, but many people are getting sick.” She brought Asma to the Cholera Treatment Centre when she became sick with vomiting and diarrhea.

UNICEF is providing support for treatment centers and hopes to save lives by providing medical supplies and educating people on health and hygiene.

UNICEF is working to improve the situation in Somalia. In addition to providing 400,000 people with vouchers good for a daily water supply, it is also digging wells and providing water, sanitation and hygiene kits, along with drums of chlorine to improve the water quality in Somalia.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr