Drought, hunger push So­ma­lis to flee

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Her eyes glued to the fee­ble move­ments of her mal­nour­ished baby with pro­trud­ing ribs and sunken eyes, Fad­umo Abdi Ibrahim strug­gled to hold back her tears in the sti­fling and crowded feeding cen­tre in So­ma­lia’s cap­i­tal. She waved a scrap of fab­ric over him to cre­ate a cur­rent of air.

She is one of thou­sands of des­per­ate peo­ple stream­ing into So­ma­lia’s cap­i­tal seek­ing food as a re­sult a pro­longed drought, over­whelm­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional aid agen­cies. The So­mali gov­ern­ment warns of a loom­ing famine.

An es­ti­mated 5 mil­lion So­ma­lis, out of pop­u­la­tion of 10 mil­lion, need hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, ac­cord­ing to the UN hu­man­i­tar­ian of­fice. About 363,000 acutely mal­nour­ished chil­dren “need ur­gent treat­ment and nu­tri­tion sup­port, in­clud­ing 71,000 who are se­verely mal­nour­ished,” said the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment’s Famine Early Warn­ing Sys­tems Network.

Ibrahim car­ried her 9-mon­thold boy, Ali Has­san, to Mogadishu 10 days ago. A mother of five, she is a proud farmer who grew maize (corn) on her fam­ily’s farm in To­ra­torow, an agri­cul­tural town in So­ma­lia’s Lower Sha­belle re­gion, be­fore rainy sea­sons failed three times over a two-year pe­riod.

“We were not able to get any­thing to eat, not even wa­ter — the en­tire en­vi­ron­ment is so parched,” she said, cradling her son’s bony legs and wav­ing away flies from his face. She said she left to seek food for her baby, leav­ing her four older chil­dren with their fa­ther on the farm. She said the kids would not have been able to sur­vive the trek.

Ibrahim’s jour­ney to Mogadishu wasn’t easy. She and other fam­i­lies hiked all day and night over 30 kilo­me­tres (nearly 20 miles) across the dry land­scape. Hun­dreds of hun­gry fam­i­lies are mak­ing the trip to seek food dis­tri­bu­tion in So­ma­lia’s cap­i­tal, Mogadishu.

“We found sev­eral bod­ies of chil­dren on the road,” she said, de­scrib­ing how moth­ers were too weak to carry the lit­tle corpses.

Fears are ris­ing of a full-blown famine in So­ma­lia. Large-scale aid is needed to avert an im­mi­nent dis­as­ter, ac­cord­ing to the So­mali gov­ern­ment.

“The dire sit­u­a­tion calls for in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion and re­gional part­ner­ship be­tween gov­ern­ments, civil so­ci­ety, aid or­ga­ni­za­tions, busi­ness and in­ter­na­tional donors,” said the gov­ern­ment this month en­cour­ag­ing re­gional co-op­er­a­tion to com­bat the ef­fects of the drought.

So­ma­lia’s on­go­ing con­flict against the Is­lamic ex­trem­ist rebels of al-Shabab has com­pounded the prob­lems of har­vest fail­ure. The wide­spread hunger “is tak­ing a par­tic­u­larly heavy toll on chil­dren and women, and makes peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ploita­tion, hu­man rights abuses and to crim­i­nal and ter­ror­ist net­works,” said the gov­ern­ment state­ment.

AP PHOTO

Ali Has­san, 9 months old, is held by his mother Fad­umo Abdi Ibrahim, who fled the drought in south­ern So­ma­lia, at a feeding cen­ter in a camp in Mogadishu, So­ma­lia, on Sun­day.

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