21/11: As Somali Crisis Swells, Experts See a Void in Aid
From The NY Times:
The worst humanitarian crisis in Africa may not be unfolding in Darfur, but here, along a 20-mile strip of busted-up asphalt, several top United Nations officials said.To read the rest of the article, click here.
A year ago, the road between the market town of Afgooye and the capital of Mogadishu was just another typical Somali byway, lined with overgrown cactuses and the occasional bullet-riddled building. Now it is a corridor teeming with misery, with 200,000 recently displaced people crammed into swelling camps that are rapidly running out of food.
Natheefa Ali, who trudged up this road a week ago to escape the bloodbath that Mogadishu has turned into, said Monday that her 10-month-old baby was so malnourished she could not swallow.
“Look,” Ms. Natheefa said, pointing to her daughter’s splotchy legs, “her skin is falling off, too.”
Top United Nations officials who specialize in Somalia said the country had higher malnutrition rates, more current bloodshed and fewer aid workers than Darfur, which is often publicized as the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis and has taken clear priority in terms of getting peacekeepers and aid money.
The relentless urban combat in Mogadishu, between an unpopular transitional government — installed partially with American help — and a determined Islamist insurgency, has driven waves of desperate people up the Afgooye road, where more than 70 camps of twigs and plastic have popped up seemingly overnight.
The people here are hungry, exposed, sick and dying. And the few aid organizations willing to brave a lawless, notoriously dangerous environment cannot keep up with their needs, like providing milk to the thousands of babies with fading heartbeats and bulging eyes. “Many of these kids are going to die,” said Eric Laroche, the head of United Nations humanitarian operations in Somalia. “We don’t have the capacity to reach them.”
He added: “If this were happening in Darfur, there would be a big fuss. But Somalia has been a forgotten emergency for years.”