Ethiopia: Somali Mother Sends Children Back To Famine As Refugee Camps Overflow

6 Aug

NEWS UPDATE:

Somalia: Seven Shot Dead In Food Scramble.

Somalia: Seven Shot Dead In Food Scramble

At least seven Somali refugees have been killed after government troops opened fire during a handout of corn rations in the famine-stricken country.

Soldiers have been accused of sparking the chaos by trying to steal some of the rations being distributed at capital city Mogadishu’s largest famine refugee camp.

Camp residents said refugees joined the scramble after witnessing the attempted theft of some of the 290 tons of dry rations – prompting the troops to open fire.

“They fired on us as if we were their enemy,” said refugee Abidyo Geddi.

“When people started to take the food then the gunfire started and everyone was being shot. We cannot stay here much longer.

“We don’t get much food and the rare food they bring causes death and torture.”

The deaths illustrate the dangers and challenges of getting help to a nation that has been essentially ungoverned for two decades and is now in the grip of a severe famine.

Aid workers are puzzling over how to help the starving without helping corrupt troops.

The gunmen are known to either prey on the refugees, compete for security contracts to guard the food, or steal it and take a share of the proceeds.

The situation echoes the one in 1992 that prompted deployment of a US-led, multi-national force to safeguard the delivery of food.

That international intervention collapsed in 1993 after two US Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 servicemen killed in a single battle in Mogadishu.

But with UN officials acknowledging that some aid in Somalia is bound to be stolen during delivery, there is no serious discussion about military intervention.

David Orr, spokesman for the World Food Program, which was overseeing the handout, said: “Will there be losses? Sure. Will there be some looting? Of course there will be.

“What we have to do is try to minimise it. This is the highest risk environment in the world the safety of our staff and getting food into the right hands are our highest priorities.”

———-

DOLO ADO, Ethiopia (Reuters) – When Somali mother Eblah Sheikh Aden gathered her seven children and set off walking for Ethiopia to find food, she never imagined she would end up sending some of her brood back into the heart of famine.

But that’s just what the 35-year-old did to four of them when she realized they were not going to get fed in time at one of the Horn of Africa’s overflowing refugee camps — swelled by a deadly mixture of drought, war and bored donors.

“They were extremely sick and there wasn’t food here,” she told Reuters in the Kobe Camp in Ethiopia. “I couldn’t watch them die and had to make a decision.”

It took Eblah two days to walk to the camp but another nine days for her to be registered to stay, such are the numbers of sick and hungry streaming in.

Now that she has managed to register her family, she says she hopes her husband will bring the four children back to the camp soon.

The United Nations says about 3.6 million people are now at risk of starvation in Somalia and about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa region, including in Ethiopia and Kenya.

When trucks loaded up with food descend on the sprawling Kobe complex they leave both a swirl of dust and a trail of people in their wake, as dozens of refugees jostle for space to grab that day’s rations.

This week, as aid workers and police scattered a crowd to maintain order, 68-year-old Hasano Abderahman cast a lonely and confused figure amid the boisterous hungry, scurrying with a worried look on his face past queues, tents and shacks trying to find somewhere to bury his baby.

“We had taken Addo to the clinic but he never recovered,” said Hasano, who had fled southern Somalia with his wife and his one month-old son. “I’m now looking for space to bury him,” he said, nearly an hour after Addo died from severe malnutrition.

One aid worker told Reuters the fate of Addo was common in the area’s refugee camps, and said that the majority of children were suffering from severe malnutrition.

“The mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. It’s very alarming,” he said. The figures are even more alarming among those dwelling in the scrubs awaiting registration for several days, he added.

www.concern.net

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