Focus on Piracy Must Not Divert Attention From Massive Humanitarian Needs in Somalia - IRC Media Release
“The piracy epidemic is just one symptom of the appalling humanitarian conditions and chronic instability in Somalia,” says Bruce Hickling, who oversees IRC aid programs in Somalia.
Ongoing fighting between the government and Islamic insurgents has killed at least 16,000 and forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes. At least a third of the population currently depends on emergency food aid.
“The Somali people are struggling to survive amid extreme levels of insecurity, a prolonged drought, livestock disease and high food prices,” says Hickling. “The crisis in Somalia requires massive assistance from the international community to ensure that millions of desperate people have access to clean water, health care, food and shelter.”
Conditions in central Somalia – where the IRC provides humanitarian aid – are dire, particularly in terms of food security. The majority of the population are pastoralists who rely entirely on their livestock for food and income, yet herds have been depleted by as much as 60 percent due to disease, drought and lack of grazing.
Hickling says the implications are severe: “People who lost their sheep or goat herds, their only source of income, are forced into towns in search of work and are living in cramped conditions with relatives or in squalid, makeshift camps. Even if we see moderate rains this year, it will take several seasons for people to get back on their feet because the crisis has reached such severe levels.”
The disastrous situation in Somalia has also forced hundreds of thousands of Somalis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Dadaab camp in eastern Kenya is overflowing with more than 260,000 refugees, despite having been designed for 90,000.
Dadaab’s population has risen by more than 10 percent over the past three months alone – putting huge pressure on limited land, water and other scarce resources. The overcrowded camp has also become a breeding ground for disease, like cholera. The IRC and partners were able to stem an outbreak earlier this year.
“Aid agencies are doing their best to make life bearable for the refugees but without more funding to provide services and more land to ease congestion, it will be impossible to improve conditions,” says Hickling.
Notes to Editors:
1. The IRC aids tens of thousands of people and the communities hosting them in the Mudug region of central Somalia. We rehabilitate wells, build latrines, conduct hygiene education and help communities improve the health of their livestock.
2. In Dadaab Camp, in eastern Kenya, the IRC runs a hospital and four health posts that deliver health care, nutrition and HIV/AIDS services for more than 100,000 refugees as well as local Kenyans.
For more information or interviews contact:
Bruce Hickling (Nairobi): +254 (0) 734 609 900, bruce.hickling@theIRC.org,
Joanne Offer (Nairobi – Wed only): +254 (0) 737 800 028, joanne.offer@theIRC.org
Melissa Winkler (New York): +1 646 734 0305, melissa.winkler@theIRC.org
Beverley Cohen (London): +44 (0)7775 196 939, beverley.cohen@IRCuk.org
About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee works in 42 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle refugees admitted into the United States. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity. For more information, visit www.theIRC.org