The UN declared famine in Lower Shabelle, Bay and Bakool regions in southern Somalia on 20th July 2011, warning that the situation could worsen because the drought had been compounded by insecurity, lack of aid and food price inflation. Again on 3rd August, the UN announced that three new areas in Southern Somalia - parts of Middle Shabelle region, the Afgoye Corridor and parts of Mogadishu - had deteriorated into a famine situation. The Afgoye Corridor, 25km west of Mogadishu, was during that time hosting an estimated 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Mogadishu since 2007.
According to the (FEWS NET), the drought situation was the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world at that time and Africa's worst food security crisis since Somalia's 1991/1992 famine.
This drought affected most of the country particularly the areas controlled by Al-Shabaab. All the people fled from that area to seek refuge in government controlled areas, mainly Mogadishu. The Islamist rebel group abruptly pulled out of the bullet-ridden capital of Somalia, leaving the entire city in the hands of the government for the first time in years and raising hopes that aid groups could now deliver aid to more famine victims unfettered.
IDPs poured into Mogadishu because some aid agencies particularly the heavy lifters in the region cannot get into Al-Shabaab strongholds. Many people have fled the drought and the famine in southern Somalia to the country's capital in search of food and aid in the last few months. Many walked for weeks on foot, without food or even water, losing loved ones and children too weak or malnourished to survive the arduous journey. And those who survived arrived at the capital weak and malnourished as shown in the picture below.
They are everywhere in Mogadishu, some with just a few families and some with hundreds of families. Most of the vacant land in Mogadishu has been taken over by these densely-crowded camps. Mogadishu was filled with IDPs during that time. Just walking down one of the streets you can find 50 or 60 crowded camps. They usually have small huts they set up, and there isn't even space to walk between the shelters. Diseases also threat in these IDPs. Displaced Somali women and children, weakened by famine and crowded into camps, are especially defenseless to disease as the rainy season looms in the famine-hit country.
The onset of the rainy season is seen in Somalia as both a blessing and a curse. Those who were left behind in the locations and the nomads also drink water from the open swamps which are contaminated as shown below. Even if it rains it is not enough for them.
The situation in Mogadishu is quite horrific. People are living in an absolutely awful situation. They are living in sort of makeshift dwellings. They are crammed together. There is no water, no sanitation, they don't have enough food, and children are severely malnourished. Almost all the children in the camps are malnourished and suffering from hunger-related diseases. Many of the pregnant and lactating mothers and older people are also succumbing to hunger. UNICEF estimates that 14 children are dying each hour in some parts of the country.
Some camps have latrines, but the majority doesn't. Some who have arrived earlier have been resettled and latrines have been built for them, though they were not enough. Within months, they have filled most of them because of the over-population, as shown below. There is lack of sanitation awareness campaign in these camps.
People are outside begging because they don't have enough food to eat or anything to sleep on or in. In the camps you always see some people who are so sick that they are just lying on the ground. The U.N. estimates that the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mogadishu is currently around 470,000. But their hope of finding aid in Mogadishu has diminished. The International Community has responded positively that time but this did not continue. It faded because, International organizations have lost the appetite and the esteem they had for the help of this IDPs.
Now the torrent of IDPs fleeing into Mogadishu has slowed to a trickle and the camera crews they have attracted have gone home. But that doesn't mean the emergency is over. There are some still trapped in the Al-Shabaab strongholds and were unable to make the difficult journey. Families wanting to flee may fear being caught up in the fighting or being stuck in the mud. Only the strongest got through. When they arrive, they are not only starving but sick and exhausted. So although less is coming, when they arrive in the IDP camps in Mogadishu many are in a more severe state of starvation, because others who came before them are still starving. Women and children in Mogadishu wait for food rations at an IDP camp in Hawlwadag as shown in the picture.
Nearly 2 million Somalis still dont have access to food aid. Rain has turned tracks through the bush to slush and there's been fighting along the border after thousands of Kenyan and Ethiopian soldiers crossed into Somalia last month. Last months incursion followed a string of kidnappings on Kenyan soil by Somali gunmen.
The Dayr rainy season which was eagerly awaited has already begun in some parts of Somalia. Since IDPs have lost hope, they are planning to return but lacking the fund to do so. Even when they return, they don't have any development project in place that will create a living for them. They are only relying on God's mercy and the hope that they receive adequate rainfall.
The famine is the worst emergency to hit Somalia for a generation. The U.N. has appealed for $1 billion and has got $779 million so far according to some sources. But aid still doesn't reach many of the starving. Islamist militias battling the weak U.N.-backed government have forbidden many aid agencies to operate in their territory, exacerbating the effects of a severe drought.
Adding to this plight is the halt of money transfers by US banks. The country relies heavily on money remitted from abroad. Those refugees who have fled to Europe and America support their families at home. According to the Somali government, the annual remittances are estimated at $2bn - about one-third of the country's income.
Last week, Hawalas in Minnesota stopped accepting wire transfers because the bank that handles the majority of the transactions, Sunrise Community Banks, planned to close their accounts, citing US requirements to crack down on terror financing are too complex and not worth the risk.
If other governments in Europe crack on this Hawalas, it will be again another humanitarian crisis. This time it will not affect only the poor but also other ordinary people.
The following are pictures of Somalis striking against the halt of money transfers. I have taken them from Radio Mogadishu.