Mogadishu is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, withstanding famine, drought, war and terrorist occupations to earn this title. The country 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
- The issue of poverty in Mogadishu is being worsened by famine in Somalia’s countryside. More than 500,000 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.
- Camps have been set up around Mogadishu to deal with the influx of famine refugees; however, they have been described as a “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 April 16, 2017.
- 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.
- The unemployment rate in Mogadishu in 2016 was 66 percent with 74 percent being women between the ages of 14 to 29. 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.”
- Organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP) work to support some of the most impoverished parts of the population. It reopened its office in Mogadishu in 2015 for the first time in 20 years. Through programs ranging from emergency relief to rehabilitation, the organization helped approximately 4.6 million people in the country in 2020. The WFP is also working with the European Union’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department (ECHO) to provide financial assistance to families in need.
- There is concern over disease outbreaks, such as cholera, migrating from the countryside to Mogadishu along with those escaping the famine. In 2017, a severe drought led to an outbreak, with 1,100 deaths among a reported 78,000 cases. The drought conditions forced Somalians to drink contaminated water sources, exacerbating the already prevalent sanitation concerns.
- Around 5,000 boys live on the streets of Mogadishu. This group of boys is part of a number of 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.
- 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.
- Despite progress being made, terror attacks continue to disrupt the lives of millions. In 2020, Somalia reported 239 terror attacks. Though this was down 16 percent from the previous year, terrorism remains a prominent issue in the country. The city of Mogadishu is a hub for many of these terror attacks.
- Poverty and climate change are intimately connected in Mogadishu. In 2018, 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. 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