Monday, July 13, 2009

Somalia: World's Worst Humanitarian Crisis

More than one in 10 Somalis has been forced out of their homes by conflict as Islamist insurgents who ruled the country briefly in 2006 battle against the government. Years of anarchy since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, combined with frequent drought, conflict and rampant inflation, have turned Somalia into the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

  • More than 3.2 million need aid
  • More than 1.1 million displaced
  • Infrastructure in tatters

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government has been unpopular and virtually powerless in a country where warlords, Islamist insurgents and troops clash almost daily. Aid workers say Somalia has more than 1.1 million internally displaced people.

Six months of strict rule by the Islamists in 2006 brought relative peace to Mogadishu. That rule ended when troops from Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally, helped restore the transitional government. Foreign occupation fuelled opposition locally and internationally and appeared to boost support for the Islamists, with some analysts saying U.S. accusations of al Qaeda involvement became a self-fulfilling prophesy. The last of the Ethiopian troops left in early 2009, having failed to stem the insurgency.

Violence has killed some 10,000 people since the beginning of 2007.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Mogadishu since the end of 2006. Aid agencies say the 15 km (10 mile) stretch of road between the capital and the town of Afgoye is probably the largest concentration of displaced people on the planet. At the end of 2008, an estimated 200,000 people were camped along the side of the road, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

Somalia is the most pressing humanitarian emergency in the world - even worse than the crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region. The UN said in October 2008 that 3.2 million people needed humanitarian aid. The shortages are caused by conflict, high inflation and frequent drought. But food distribution is further hindered by pirate attacks on sea deliveries, roadblocks, and armed attacks on aid convoys.

Aid agencies rank Somalia one of the most dangerous places in the world to work, and few organisations base international staff there. The African Union has deployed troops to replace the Ethiopian soldiers, but they complain they are under-funded and under-staffed.

In 2009, parliament voted in a moderate Islamist president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who has promised to forge peace with neighbours, tackle rampant piracy offshore and rein in hardline insurgents (taken from a report on


Some Key Facts

Total population (2006)8.4 million
Life expectancy (2006)47
Internally displaced people1.1 million (September 2008)
Refugees from Somalia (2007)457,000
People in need of humanitarian aid3.2 million
Doctors per 100,000 people4
Population with access to safe water (2004)29 percent
Children under five under height for age (2000-2006)38 percent
Children under five underweight (2000-2006)36 percent
Under-five mortality rate (2006)145 per 1,000 live births
Children attending primary school (2000-2006)Boys - 24 percent; Girls - 20 percent


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