According to a new report, despite improvements in recent years in Somalia, the country remains in severe crisis. A coalition of more than 20 aid groups says many Somali communities are one shock away from disaster.
The report — Risk of Relapse: Somalia Crisis Update –said better conditions are not the same as success. It described “most aspects of everyday life as falling far below acceptable living standards.”
The report said nearly three-million Somalis are in humanitarian crisis – 50,000 children are severely malnourished – and more than one-million people are displaced. Those figures are actually better than they used to be. But the report warned “progress should not be measured against minimum standards.”
Scott Paul is a senior humanitarian advisor for Oxfam, one of the coalition members. He said, “Somalia is in a long-term crisis and it’s been forgotten a lot in the face of new emergencies, in particular, emergencies in Syria and South Sudan, Central African Republic. But it’s still in a very, very deep crisis. It’s really one of the worst places in the world for a newborn baby or a woman.”
Paul said that when providing assistance to Somalia, it’s important to learn from the past.
“We learned in 2011that responding late to early warnings is a bad idea. 260,000 people died in the famine in 2011and we’re trying to sound the alarm so another terrible emergency doesn’t take place again.”
While conditions are better than in 2011, the Oxfam advisor said it’s not enough.
“Things have improved marginally over the past couple of years, but most of the country is still experiencing really, really high rates of humanitarian emergency and crisis. Fewer than one in four people have access to adequate sanitation facilities and one city in the south, in Kismayo, less than 10-percent of the entire population has access to adequate facilities. Across the country about 30-percent of the people have access to clean drinking water.”
He said that there are a number of reasons why Somalia continues to be in crisis year after year.
It’s been a long, long protracted emergency. It’s been a consequence of a crisis in governance. It’s been conflict. It’s been cyclical droughts. And the international community has not done enough to really help Somalia provide the sort of long-term flexible funding that Somali communities need to build community-level resilience and work themselves out of this protracted crisis,” he said.
The Risk of Relapse report said only 12-percent of Somalia ’s humanitarian funding requirements have been met, adding that $822-million is still needed.
The report highlighted numerous areas of concern, including health and gender based violence. In the first half of 2013, the there were at least 800 cases of sexual violence.
Paul said, “The actual figure is probably much higher than what’s been reported because gender-based violence is actually very taboo in Somalia. And many women who are attacked are afraid to come forward. Either because they’re afraid of legal repercussions for what it will mean for them within their own communities.”
The livelihoods of many Somalis depend on the flow of remittances. They’re estimated to range from $750-million to two-billion dollars a year.
However, the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. have led to much tighter money transfer rules. It’s feared remittances could help fund terrorist groups. Banks in the U.S. and Britain have closed numerous accounts handling remittance transfers.
“A lot of people in the United States – Somali Americans – and members of the Diaspora have been regularly supporting people. About 40-percent of the country now relies on money sent from abroad. And the only really legal and transparent way to send money from the U.S. to Somalia are having a ton of trouble getting bank accounts both here and in the United Kingdom.
The possibility of pushing these remittances underground where the flows will be reduced and where it’s more vulnerable to diversion by criminal networks is really very frightening,” said Paul.
In related news, the U.S. House of Representatives this week passed the Money Remittances Improvement Act. Supporters say the bill would make it easer for “well-regulated nonbank institutions…to provide remittances to their customers across the globe.” They describe it as a “cause for celebration for all diaspora communities.” The legislation now goes to the Senate.
The aid group coalition called for immediate action on Somalia’s humanitarian and development needs. Otherwise, it says, the world is “at risk of failing Somalis once more.”