News: Somalia - An Uphill Aid Battle

Food aid stacked on the beach in SomaliaSomalia has had no functioning government since 1991, when rival clan leaders overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. When an Islamic group took power in parts of the south and the capital last year, the weakened transitional government invited in Ethiopian troops to dislodge the Islamists. The Islamists regrouped with support from Ethiopia's archenemy, Eritrea, and have been fighting an insurgency against the government ever since.

Several aid workers have been killed by stray bullets and mortars this year, and the years of fighting have devastated Somalia's infrastructure, making aid delivery difficult and dangerous.

Last week, ships coming from Kenya headed not to chaotic Mogadishu but to the nearby port of Merka. All that remains of the disintegrated pier is a series of jagged metal poles biting into the turquoise sea.

The rusty wreck of a cargo ship run aground warns the aid ships not to come too close. Instead, a rickety flotilla of small boats sets out to meet the ships, ferrying sacks of grain through rough seas toward hundreds of porters waiting neck-deep in waters where aggressive bull sharks hunt. (Pictures)

Once the food is piled on the beach, aid workers organise its storage and transport through roadblocks manned by hungry gunmen, their teeth rotten and eyes bloodshot from chewing the mildly narcotic plant called qat. In the chaos of Somalia, the ragged gunmen can be freelance bandits, members of a clan-based militia or even work for the government. The cost of moving a truck through roadblocks along the 39km from Mogadishu to the refuge town of Afgoye has
shot up to $475, and there have been 15 incidents of looting from WFP convoys this year. (Full Post)

For updated humanitarian news, check The Other World News.


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