Monday, July 23, 2012

Famine ends but hunger remains

400,000 famine victims who fled to the city for aid at the height of the crisis are still living in one of the many refugee camps outside Mogadishu. The WFP said on Jul. 18 that although there is currently no famine in Somalia and malnutrition rates have improved considerably over the last year,

One-year-old Miriam Jama was born just as the United Nations World Food Programme declared famine.  Weak and visibly malnourished, Miriam, like the rest of her family, hardly have enough food to eat.

“We get barely enough to keep alive. Famine may have ended, but for us hunger has not,”
Hawa Jama, Miriam’s mother, tells IPS.  Her family receives only 25 kilogrammes of grain, 25 kgs of flour, and 10 litres of cooking oil for a month. It is hardly sufficient to feed this family of seven. But they are not the only ones hungry here. “I don’t want to be dependent on handouts from aid agencies, which are never enough here.

Water and sanitation are also poor at the camps as the number of toilets remains inadequate, and the water trucked in does not meet the international requirement both in quality and quantity, says Mohamed Ali, a local human rights activist. “I think what we have achieved since the famine was declared back in July last year is that people are not now dying because of hunger. But hunger is still there and there are no systematic programmes to help refugees stand on their feet by creating income schemes and repatriating them back to their communities,” The food situation has worsened as international aid agencies scaled down their humanitarian operations after the U.N. declared the end of the famine in February.

The U.N. Refugee Agency reported on Jul. 18 that the Somali refugee population has exceeded one million. Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex alone houses 570,000 people. And 3.8 million people in Somalia remain in crises and are in urgent need of assistance, while an estimated 325,000 children are acutely malnourished. Life in the camps is a difficult existence as refugees complain that camp administrators and local officials steal food aid and practice nepotism and favoritism in aid distribution. In addition, the Somali government’s national Disaster Management Agency, which was formed to deal with the famine, has been called ineffective and corrupt. “The agency has not been effective in its work and is one of the agencies that failed the people in need. Corruption is widespread among the organs of government and this agency has its share,” a local aid worker, who asked for anonymity, tells IPS. The official says “layers of corruption” from international agencies, their local partners, government officials, as well as those running the camps continues the cycle of hunger for the displaced refugees.

 “I don’t like to complain, but this is a matter of life and death for us. Those responsible for running our camp are not giving us all the aid and favour others. We tell every foreign official who comes to visit, but nothing is done about our predicament,”
Mumino Ali,

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