Somalia: Life in a failed state

Conditions in displacement camps are emblematic of country's humanitarian crisis.


    Fatuma found it difficult to bring her son
    to a health clinic due to the fighting
    Aid workers say they are struggling to provide help for the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced arriving at camps on the outskirts of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

    Sick, weak and severely malnourished, six-month-old Abdirahman Abdullahi is hovering between life and death.

    His mother, Fatuma, looks on as he receives treatment at a health centre run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) outside Mogadishu.

    She knows that she may have brought her son to hospital too late for him to be effectively treated.
    "I had nowhere to go. The fighting was going on where I live daily," she said.

    "I had also no one to leave my eight other children with. I just got the opportunity to seek help."

    His condition illustrates the humanitarian crisis engulfing Somalia amid fierce fighting between government soldiers and opposition Islamic Courts' Union fighters.

    In just the latest instance, residents of northern Mogadishu said on Tuesday that clashes killed at least six people, including three family members.

    Medical crisis

    In video

    Living in a failed state

    Fleeing Somalia's fighting

    Caught in the crossfire

    The sick come in all sizes to the MSF clinic. Doctors show a girl who is traumatised. 

    She has no physical pain but is severely depressed by what is going on around her. It is a condition shared by many.
    There are few medical experts in Somalia today, but those in the country are shocked by the high number of fatalities among the displaced.

    "Currently we see an increase in the number of watery diarrhoea cases. We see an increase in the mortality rate. There are a lot of people dying, which is not acceptable," Dr Gustavo Fernandez, a medic from MSF, said.

    Special report

    Somalia: A nation in ruins

    At a camp for displaced people just outside Mogadishu, thousands of people live in tiny, dirty shelters.

    These people fled death in the city but death continues to stalk them even here. They have little access to food, water, sanitation and proper medical care.

    Almost all those in this camp, as well as other camps in Mogadishu, survive on food handouts from aid agencies.

    But due to the simmering conflict and security problems, aid shipments to displaced people are few and far between.

    Will to live 

    The violence engulfing Mogadishu
    has taken its toll on civilians
    Fatuma Maalim's story is shocking but not out of the ordinary. She lost her husband and five children a few months ago when a missile hit their home.
    She now lives in the camp with her only surviving daughter, who lost an eye and a leg in the attack. She looks after two children who were abandoned by a neighbour who fled the fighting.

    "I still see images of the intestines of my children right before me. I can't go back to Mogadishu, I have no home there. How can I go back to a place without peace?" Maalim said.

    Desolate and displaced they may be, but these people have a strong will to live. In one camp, a market allows goods to be traded.
    Yet every little flare-up of violence in Mogadishu swell the numbers of people in the camps, and new buildings spring up to house them.
    For many ordinary people in Mogadishu, these camps, for now, are home.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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