One of the world’s leading organizations in the fight for global health has just begun to carry out a nationwide campaign in Somalia to fight cholera. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, issued a press release on March 15 announcing its comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of cholera among Somali citizens. This Gavi cholera vaccine campaign seeks to save potentially thousands of lives in the drought-stricken African country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the southern half of the continent (where Somalia resides) is home to the bulk of cholera cases reported worldwide, and those cases have a higher likelihood of causing death than in other regions. This is primarily due to the lack of access to safe, clean water and sanitation as the disease-causing bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, thrives in public water sources and is spread through the waste products of those infected.

The situation in Somalia has been worsened by an ongoing harsh drought, which has forced people to use contaminated water and has hastened the spread of the disease.

Notorious for its contagiousness, cholera infected over 170,000 people globally in 2015. Year to date, more than 10,500 cases of cholera have been reported across 12 regions of Somalia, resulting in nearly 270 fatalities. The spread of the epidemic has been swift, with 400 new cases appearing in a single day in early March.

The Gavi cholera vaccine campaign plans to reduce these alarming numbers by delivering 953,000 doses of oral vaccine to a population of more than 450,000 people at risk of being infected. Administration of the vaccines will be completed by the Somali government, focusing on the regions of Somalia with the highest concentration of cases: Banadir, Beledweyne, and Kismayo. The doses will be administered over two waves, the first taking place from March 15-19, and the second from April 18-22.

The campaign marks an alliance between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, who has provided the vaccines themselves as well as an additional $550,000 to support the program.

“Cholera is a major health issue in Somalia. The current drought has worsened the situation for many. Therefore we’re very glad to have the support of Gavi to implement the first oral cholera vaccine campaign in Somalia,” said Dr. Ghulam Popal, Somalia’s WHO representative.

Recognizing that cholera is not bound by political borders, Gavi is also launching a simultaneous vaccine campaign of 475,000 doses in South Sudan. This latest campaign is another step in realizing Gavi’s continuous mission to save lives and protect the health of all people in lower-income countries.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

Famine in Somalia

Famine is looming in Somalia and intergovernmental organizations are preparing to respond. According to the World Food Programme of the United Nations (U.N.), about half of Somalia’s population is affected by the drought and a quarter of the population needs urgent assistance.

Somalia has faced a drought since August 2015. The U.N. announced a risk of near-future famine in Somalia in early February. The U.N. appealed for 864 million dollars to help more than three million people in Somalia, and the U.N. Food Programme has a 26 million dollar plan to respond to the drought. Currently, the World Food Programme offers rapid emergency response, nutritional meals and vocational training, among other crucial services to Somalia.

The U.N. is not the only major non-governmental organization concerned about the possibility of famine. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network created a report with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.N. Food Programme to express risk of famine.

This is not the first time that Somalia has faced famine. When the country had a famine from 2011 to mid-2012, more than 250,000 people died. This famine resulted from a drought that began in October 2010. Philippe Lazzarini, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said that more could have been done sooner to prevent these deaths. By the time the U.N. declared a famine based on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, many people had already died.

In addition to the famine in Somalia, there are also looming famines in South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen. There are more than 20 million people affected by food insecurity in all of these countries combined. The U.N. needs 4.4 billion dollars by March to address the problem and the World Food Program needs 1.2 billion dollars of those funds to aid these four countries for the next five months.

Early intervention is necessary to avert the famine in Somalia and in nearby countries.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

A food crisis in Somalia has its citizens on the brink of another famine. Waiting on international or government aid is a slow process, so Somalis are turning to each other for support. “Combining 21st-century social media with the age-old clan network, the bedrock of Somali society as well as its safety net,” as Ben Quinn from the Guardian puts it, communities of Somalis around the world are using WhatsApp to sponsor families affected by food insecurity.

Humanitarian organizations like the U.N. have warned that 6.2 million Somalis are on the verge of famine, but foreign aid has been slow coming. Saad Ali Shire, the foreign minister of the Republic of Somaliland, says that Somalia needs immediate aid in the form of life-saving supplies in the next two to three weeks to avoid a declared famine.

Aid organizations are trying to prevent a repeat of the famine that killed 260,000 Somalis between 2010 and 2012. Britain’s Department for International Development gave £100 million to Somalia, but the money only covers a small fraction of the need.

With the response to the food crisis in Somalia lagging, networks around the world are turning to social media to support people in need of life-saving aid. Users of WhatsApp are forming groups and pooling their resources to sponsor Somali families. The groups figure out how much aid they can provide based on the formula that says families can survive on $60 per month.

The group then deposits money into a Dahabshiil bank account. Dahabshiil is an African international funds transfer company that started in 1970. The company was initially set up so that migrants from countries in East Africa could send money back to their family and friends still living there. Dahabshiil now allows groups like the Somali clans to transfer funds during crises in addition to offering banking services to the World Bank, Oxfam, the U.N. and Save the Children.

After WhatsApp groups deposit money into a Dahabshiil account, they nominate a five-person committee to withdraw the money and buy supplies for families — usually powdered milk, rice and water.

The network is growing every day, and members are primarily of the Somali diaspora. Forty-five thousand people in Canada identify their ethnic origin as Somali, and tens of thousands of people in Minnesota are also a part of the Somali network addressing the food crisis in Somalia.

The WhatsApp network is a tremendous start, but some smaller Somali groups are struggling to provide aid of their own resources and are turning to aid agencies for financial support. While prominent humanitarian organizations are doing their best to give aid, the process is slow-moving in a time of urgent need.

How to donate: Ocha, World Vision, MSF, Concern, WFP.

Rachel Cooper

Photo: Flickr

Refugees Come From
2015 UNHCR statistics estimate that 65.3 million people have been forced from their homes around the world. This equates to roughly one out of every 113 people on Earth. Almost one percent of the Earth’s population is displaced either internally, as an asylum-seeker, or as a refugee. Approximately 21.3 million of these people are considered refugees, and over half of these refugees come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.


Approximately 4.9 million refugees are from Syria. This is a subset of the 12.3 million people who have been displaced from their homes within or outside of the country. The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 with anti-government protests, creating an opening for the militant group ISIS to infiltrate the country. The fighting has killed many citizens while destroying infrastructure including homes, schools, and hospitals.

Most Syrian refugees are resettled in five neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Many struggle to meet their basic needs and most live below the poverty line in these countries. Yet, life is still better in refugee camps than at home.


Around 2.7 million refugees come from Afghanistan. Most of these individuals are resettled in Pakistan and Iran, where their human rights are in constant jeopardy. The number of Afghan refugees continues to dwindle because of continued efforts to repatriate them. These efforts are controversial because citizens still face poverty and war upon their return.

Afghanistan has had economic and security-related difficulties since the withdrawal of many international humanitarian programs in 2014. At the end of 2015, an earthquake displaced even more people. Violence continues to put those remaining in the country in danger. The country’s failing infrastructure has caused a lack of access to electricity, education, and clean water. Women and children are also heavily abused.


Roughly 1.1 million refugees come from Somalia. Since disastrous battles in 1991, Somalia has endured continued conflict. In combination with ongoing flooding and drought, many face extreme poverty and malnutrition.

Seventeen percent of the population is either displaced or living elsewhere as refugees. Thousands of Somalis live in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where they have remained for multiple decades. Many others live in Ethiopia and Yemen. From 1990 to 2015, the number of Somalian-born people living outside the country doubled.

Humanitarian crises have put these countries at the forefront, in terms of numbers, of displaced persons and refugees. Nonetheless, waves of refugees change with global conflict. Most refugees today are fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. The 1970s saw many from Vietnam and Cambodia, while the 1990s saw mostly European refugees from the former Soviet Union and Kosovo. No matter where refugees come from or where they resettle, we must continue supporting them.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

Within 48 hours, 110 people die from starvation and dehydration as the drought in Somalia escalates.

The newly-elected prime minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, reported on the matter at a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The majority of victims consisted of women and children from the rural regions of Somalia’s southwestern Bay, where the drought is most severe.

This drought has affected more than 6.2 million people. As little rain has fallen and rivers have dried up, the people of Somalia are facing severe food insecurity and lack of clean water. Nearly 5.5 million are at high risk of contracting acute watery diarrhea, cholera and measles — all of which are waterborne diseases that rapidly spread through poor water quality.

As the death toll increases, the World Health Organization warned that the country is on the brink of famine, its potential third case in 25 years. The last famine, which lasted from 2011 to 2012, killed around 260,000 people. The famine of 1992 killed about 220,000.

Peter de Clercq, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, echoed the potential of famine — but only if the world is slow to step-up and increase humanitarian assistance. He warned, “If we do not scale up the drought-response immediately, it will cost lives, further destroy livelihoods, and could undermine the pursuit of key state-building initiatives.”

As the drought in Somalia escalates, children are the ones impacted the most. Three million children are missing school in order to maintain the lives of their family’s livestock, and another 100,000 may soon join them. Perhaps more tragically, over 363,000 children have been reported as acutely malnourished and another 70,000 severely malnourished, all of which are in desperate need of life-saving support.

Somalia is one of four nations listed by the U.N. as at-risk of famine, alongside Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. Famine is declared when 20 percent of households cannot function during food shortages, more than 30 percent of the population experiences acute malnutrition and more than two deaths occur per 10,000 people.

The Associated Press has reported the U.N. is calling for $864 million in humanitarian assistance, with a recent appeal for another $26 million that will fund a response as the drought in Somalia escalates.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr

Resisting the Closure of Dadaab Refugee Camp
On May 6, 2016, Kenya announced plans for the closure of Dadaab refugee camp by Nov. 30 this year. This closure of the largest refugee camp in the world could cause a number of problems for the refugees forced to leave.

The vast majority of the refugee population in Dadaab is Somalian. Forcing Somalians to return home in an atmosphere of continued unrest and insecurity is a recipe for disaster. The most visible problem is that as of now, parts of Somalia are still under the control of al-Shabaab, an armed group committing abuse and targeting civilians even in government-controlled areas. As a result, a large share of the country is extremely dangerous and could be fatal for refugees returning.

The closure of Dadaab refugee camp could cause less visible, but equally dangerous consequences on refugee health and education. A substantial number of Somali refugees in Dadaab today are there not because of the conflict but in order to escape the situation of drought and famine in the province of Jubbaland. Returning would, therefore, mean putting pressure on the resources of an already thinly stretched economy, as well as causing a negative impact on refugee health.

The Bhekisisa Center for Health Journalism predicts that the closure of Dadaab could lead to the next health crisis. A forced and involuntary return could escalate refugees’ vulnerability to malnutrition, weaken their immune systems and make them vulnerable to infectious diseases. Lack of health care resources including basic vaccinations in Somalia would make it hard for refugees to be treated for diseases brought back from the camp, as well as for chronic illnesses.

The good news is that as recently as August 2016, Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery announced that the government of Kenya would hold back its decision to close the camp until peace in Somalia is restored. However, this decision is not without its own backlash. Two-thirds of all Kenyans support sending all refugees home. This backlash comes from a combination of fear of al-Shabaab attacks and a fear of the change in the ethnic composition of Kenya.

In order to address these understandable concerns of Kenyan citizens, the Kenyan government, working with UNHCR has been attempting to encourage voluntary returns among refugees. Under the tripartite agreement signed by the Somalian and Kenyan governments with UNHCR in November 2013, each party is responsible for developing and implementing a plan for the large-scale voluntary return of Somali refugees.

Any plan created for this purpose must involve building infrastructure, hospitals, clinics and improve security in Somalia as a solution to the refugee problem. Repatriation is not enough; post-conflict infrastructure must be a priority. This can only be done through continued support from the international community.

Creating a hospitable environment for refugees to return to Somalia is not a mere solution. For the time being, Dadaab refugee camp is the only resource a huge portion of the Somali population has. Keeping it open requires both financial support as well as greater empathy for the struggles of refugees. Many organizations are responding to both these needs.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr

State of Refugees Worldwide
When it comes to the state of refugees and displaced people worldwide, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stands ready to protect the rights of those forced to leave their homes. Since the commission’s start in 1950, the UNHCR budget has grown from $300,000 in its first year to around $7 billion in 2015. This agency collects a lot of data regarding the whereabouts and status of refugees around the world in order to maintain a steady and productive presence.

With 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, 21.3 million refugees and 10 million stateless individuals, this type of organization and statistical bookkeeping is essential to progress. Currently, the world is peaking at its highest rate of displacement on record. About half of the global refugee population is under 18, and around 34,000 men, women and children are displaced every day, begging the questions: What countries are these refugees forced to leave? What countries have taken them in?

It is measured that 53 percent of all the world’s refugees are departing from just three countries: Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria — in that order. The civil war in Somalia is the single largest event adding to the refugee population, currently forcing refugees to flee into surrounding areas such as Kenya for the past 24 years.

While in Afghanistan, rampant insurgency from the Taliban and Daesh keep refugees from returning home. Most notable in the current media landscape is the third largest refugee contributor, Syria, which is experiencing genocide, civil war and an increasingly destabilized sociopolitical landscape.

With such a massive population exiting the places they call home, every part of the globe has had to accept displaced peoples. The regions harboring the most refugees are the Middle East and North Africa, collectively populated by 39 percent of all of the world’s displaced individuals. Surprisingly, the United States and Europe admit the least amount of people to seek refuge within their borders at 12 percent and six percent respectively.

As for the individual nations containing the highest refugee populations, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon top the list with Iran, Ethiopia and Jordan not far behind. Turkey currently contains 2.5 million displaced individuals from a multitude of areas, establishing the country as a refugee capitol of sorts. The next closest, Pakistan, contains 1.6 million displaced people. Most of this group comes from Afghanistan, as Pakistan is the closest geographic neighbor for much of the Afghan population.

The UNHCR is currently working in 128 different countries to alleviate the suffering that comes with the mass diaspora. Increased funding, as well as more nations willing to accept those without homes, is required if these problems are to end eventually. Many within the U.S. and abroad continue to work tirelessly to provide future for people with no say in how their lives progress. It will take global cooperation to see this crisis to a peaceful resolution and better the current state of refugees around the world.

– Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian aidAlthough known as a country riddled with insurgency, drought and political instability, Somalia, the “Horn of Africa,” is steadily improving with humanitarian aid. In November, in a session of the United Nations Security Council on Somalia, the U.N.’s top diplomat in the region, Nicholas Kay, expressed positivity about the state’s transformation.

Humanitarian aid has been instrumental in the country’s upward trajectory. The 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Somalia, outlined in 2015, seeks $885 million to reach 3.5 million people.

In addition to decreasing extreme vulnerabilities and outstanding crises, the Federal Government and the international community, has set a goal to decrease the number of people who are unable to meet minimum food requirements from eight percent down to five percent of the total population.

The same study has reported that 308,000 children under age five were acutely malnourished and 56,000 children severely malnourished, with an overall burden of 800,000 malnutrition cases.

In addition to malnourishment, the region also remains vulnerable to extreme environmental fluctuation. The U.N. estimates that as a result of the 2015 drought in the region, over 4.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

The good news, however, is that international organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee are responding to the need by expanding humanitarian aid to Somalia.

The organizations are providing food assistance, health initiatives and clean water and sanitation improvements. As of April 15, nearly 60,000 people affected by the drought have received food provided by aid organizations, according to a press release made by the ICRC.

In response to the weather severity and its aftermath, Jordi Raich Curcó, the head of ICRC’s Somalia delegation, said, “Unfortunately, this isn’t new or unique; the drought is only the latest example of such cyclical phenomena. We hope our intervention can help some of the affected communities see the drought through.”

In partnership with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations, international players continue working towards peaceful governance and military control within the country.

This support focuses on border control safety, the integrity of refugees and those deported from surrounding regions and human rights violations as a result of local militants.

In making positive steps towards improving the quality of life for the Somali people, regional and international actors remain hopeful that future goals will be met for the betterment of the country.

– Nora Harless
Harshim Town Fafan Zone Somali region

MogadishuLocated in a country right in the Horn of Africa, Mogadishu or Xamar, the capital of Somalia, is the largest city and seaport in the country. The city lies north of the equator on Somalia’s coast on the Indian Ocean.

Considering its location, it is not surprising that Mogadishu was Somalia’s major port for centuries and has since served as the commercial and financial center of the country. Previously known as the “White Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” the city has undergone much turmoil, given its conflicts between competing warlords and various militias until 2006.

Mogadishu started to expand steadily in 2010 with the election of a new technocratic government and the start of federal control of the city. In 2013, Mogadishu’s population was estimated to be around two million people.

At present, the people of Mogadishu can look back at the past and see how far their city has come — from the days of war, when women were forced to wear niqabs and children were not allowed to play football on the streets, to present times, when women can wear modern clothes under their abayas.

2016 is a very important year for the city of Mogadishu and Somalia as a whole because of its upcoming presidential election. This is not just an ordinary presidential election because this could be the first time a woman holds the top job in the country.

Somalia’s first female presidential candidate is Fadumo Dayib, the daughter of Somali parents who was born in Kenya but grew up in Somalia and Finland. Though Fadumo did not learn to read and write until the age of 14, she managed to earn a master’s degree in health care and public health.

During the time she worked with the United Nations, she realized her passion was to do more to help Somalians.

From the perspectives of Somalians like Fadumo from the diaspora, returning to their country, Mogadishu is growing very quickly. As described by Laila Ali in the Guardian, Mogadishu is becoming like “Manhattan or Central London…new buildings and businesses are emerging from the carnage and lawlessness that pervaded the East African country for more than two decades.”

Mogadishu is rising from the dust after 23 years of conflict and is growing at a rate of 6.9 percent as the world’s second fastest growing city. Despite its horrid past, this “White Pearl of the Indian Ocean” is surely making steps in the right direction due to an improvement in its security situation and economic pursuits.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: Nations Online, The Guardian 1, BBC, Fortune of Africa, The Guardian 2
Photo: Flickr

For the residents of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital and largest city, it is not uncommon to see clusters of unaccompanied children gathering by coffee shops, theaters and restaurants. Often, they carry rags and polish to make quick money cleaning windshields and shining shoes.

These kids are not only just astray from parents, but have made makeshift homes on the inhospitable tarmac of Mogadishu’s dense urban grid. Sadly, the sight of these street children is just an accustomed part of life in the capital.

These children live their lives in tight competition, sometimes lining up in front of mosques 20 strong to scrub shoes for a mere $0.10 a piece at most. Yet, without any main provider, guardian or parent, it is all they can hope for.

In 2008, estimates placed the total amount number of street children at over 5,000. However, in 2011, Somalia experienced its worst famine in over 60 years, which decimated the livestock and the crops of numerous families. This left many parents without their livelihoods or a means of supporting for their children. Consequentially, more kids flocked to the streets in search of money.

Recent estimates have shown that in just three years, the number of street children in Somalia more than doubled; in 2011, 5,000 had expanded to an excess of 11,000.

This total is only predicted to increase.

Ironically, a Somali bill aimed at ending the recruitment of child soldiers is expected to exasperate the problem; often an unfortunate escape route for impoverished youth, child soldiering keeps children off the street.

While helping to eradicate child soldiering, this bill does nothing to provide former child soldiers with support or assistance that could help them assimilate back into their communities. Many inevitably will end up on the streets.

Escaping child soldiering is just one of many causes that lead children to take to the streets. Some street children simply have no other option but to live on the streets. They may have been abandoned by their family or indeed have no family.

Others may have a home to stay in but spend days and some nights in the streets. Often, this is due to overcrowding in the home or sexual and physical mistreatment. Others still may actually live on the streets with their entire family after losing a home to natural disaster, destitution or conflict.

These various children all share one common issue however; they struggle to obtain even the most basic and due rights. According to a UN report, “In reality, children in street situations are deprived of many of their rights – both before and during their time on the streets – and while on the street, they are more likely to be seen as victims or delinquents than as rights holders.”

Unlike other children their age, street children lack access to basic services such as education, healthcare and are more susceptible to prevalent social and health issues. They experience higher rates of STDs, HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, and violence, suicide and traffic accidents.

In 2011, UNICEF conducted a study on street children in Ukraine that produced shocking results. More than a fifth had reported using injected drugs and close to two thirds of girls had experience with prostitution. Only a measly 13 percent used condoms in their casual sexual encounters.

These issues require more government and NGO involvement and the implementation of child protection services. Various countries in disparate regions have all found solutions that provide street children with the rights deprived of them.

In Ethiopia, Somalia’s African neighbor, UNICEF has partnered with the country’s police academy in order to train 36,000 officers about children’s rights and protection. Other countries like Brazil, India and Canada have implemented small scale interventions that provide community based support to those on the streets.

Somalia itself has indicated its desire to expand resources for the street children that crowd its capital. Mohamed Abdullahi Hasan, the Somali minister of youth and sports, told Al Jazeera “We are trying to create centers to house these children. But we have no funds. On many occasions we have been promised funds, but we have not yet seen any.” Until Somalia recovers from its national turmoil, it will struggle to improve the lives of its youngest citizens.

Andrew Logan

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Gaurdian, WHO,, United Nations
Photo: Flickr