Somalia: NGOs facing aid delivery nightmare

2011-08-22 11:10
Nairobi - Somalia is the world's most challenging terrain for aid workers, according to the head of Doctors Without Borders, one of many groups scrambling to contain the ravages of a historic drought.

"Even with all the lines of communication that we have, we have serious problems accessing the areas where the problem is to do an independent assessment, which is absolutely essential," Unni Karunakara told AFP on Sunday.

"Right now we are working around the fringes," said the head of the Paris-based NGO, traditionally one of the first organisations to bring relief to conflict areas and one of the last to leave when the going gets tough.

In recent weeks, Somalia has been the worst hit of several countries in East Africa affected by what the United Nations has described as the region's most severe drought in 60 years.

The international community slowly mobilised to help the millions of people who need food aid to stay alive but delivering aid to a country which is also one of the world's most dangerous is hugely complicated.

The vast Horn of Africa country has been plagued by almost uninterrupted civil unrest for 20 years and has no central authority.

"For me it is the most difficult country. We work in Afghanistan, in Iraq, but we don't have armed guards in these places," Karunakara said.

Daunting task


"In Cote d'Ivoire, where a war was going on, we were conducting our first operation within 36 hours. Here, even getting a car is a negotiation."

Sophisticated clan dynamics make finding the right allies and logistical support a very complicated and perilous process in Somalia.

In addition, until recently, the dominant force in the country was the Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-inspired insurgent group which is fighting the Western-backed government and that expelled foreign aid groups.

The fledgling UN-run emergency food relief operation has so far targeted mainly people who had fled some of the worst affected areas and gathered in the capital Mogadishu.

But Karunakara said bringing the food to some of the Somalis who need it the most, deeper in the country, would prove a even more daunting task.

"The current dialogue is about raising funds and getting supplies to Mogadishu but the real challenge, the last mile problem, is how you get the food from the port to the people who actually need it," he said.

The Shabaab pulled out of the half of Mogadishu they controlled earlier in August, making it at least possible for groups such as MSF to organise a humanitarian operation.

Overcrowded camps


But Karunakara said that the myriad warlords and local clan leaders made the local vetting of any decision a slow and painstaking affair.

"Today we are conducting 200 interviews for nurses positions, but each hire has to be discussed with the clan leaders, and they will then nominate people who can be hired or not," he said.

Karunakara said that the absence of any centralised state for two decades also means that there is no scientific data whatsoever for aid groups like his to work with.

The MSF boss painted a bleak picture of the crisis in Somalia, where the UN has officially declared famine for the first time this century, saying that epidemics could spread across camps for the displaced like bush fire.

"The risk is high because people are living in very crowded camps, with very little access to sanitary facilities," he said.

"We are already seeing a high number of skin infections, of eye infections, respiratory infections, acute watery diarrhoea. All this points to a very bad hygienic situation."

MSF launched a measles vaccination campaign in Mogadishu which has covered 3 000 children so far. The group is also due to launch a campaign to prevent cholera outbreaks.

- SAPA
Read more on:    msf  |  somalia  |  east africa  |  east africa hunger  |  africa drought
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off all TV Series!

Want to have a chilled day at home? Get 20% off TV series, the perfect excuse to "veg out". Shop now!

Save R700 on the Hisense LED TV Now R2499

Get the Hisense 32” HD ready LED TV for only R2499. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Today is a good day to combine imagination, information and creativity together. Try not to over rationalise things and rather...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.