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The UN’s recent declaration that parts of southern and central Somalia are in a state of famine was apparently not shared by al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorist organization that controls nearly 90 percent of the drought stricken areas.
Consequently, the Islamist terror outfit has now banned international relief organizations from the territory it controls, an action that is now reportedly preventing emergency aid from reaching over 2.2 million starving Somalis.
Somalia’s drought is just part of the larger drought that has gripped the entire Horn of Africa, one that has affected over 11 million people. For Somalia — already engulfed in horrific sectarian violence and subjected to near continuous anarchy for over twenty years — the current drought has been particularly nasty.
According to various reports, more than half of Somalia’s 3.7 million people live in drought-affected areas where they are unable to find food and, as such, face imminent starvation. It’s been estimated that 500,000 Somali children alone are critically malnourished. In fact, so bad has the situation become that the UN reported 11,000 Somalis have died from famine since June.
However, according to al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, the UN has “exaggerated” the drought in Somalia. Moreover, he called the UN’s claim of the famine’s existence a complete “lie.” Instead, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage accused the UN of political subterfuge and many of the foreign relief agencies as being “spies” who were “harming our people.”
Ironically, and perhaps somewhat confusingly, al-Shabab — which banned relief organizations from its territory in 2009 — had actually allowed food agencies back into its territory at the beginning of July 2011.
Perhaps al-Shabab relented because, as it remains locked in a battle with Somalia’s Transnational Federal Government (TFG), allowing locals to starve wasn’t the most effective way to win their hearts and minds. In any case, the result was that five tons of emergency supplies were quickly airlifted into al-Shabab-controlled territory.
Yet, weeks later, the relief agency ban is back in effect. Now, according to Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, the Somali people need to just stay home and “wait for rain.”
Nonetheless, a mass exodus of over 500,000 refugees has poured into the neighboring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia, with the largest camp being at Dadaab, north of the Kenyan border, which is home to 370,000 refugees.
A smaller contingent has made its way to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Others, to one of the 50 refugee camps set up by the TGF, with the largest being Badbaado, home to 20,000 refugees. In all, over 3,000 Somalis make their way daily into these various refugee camps.
Unfortunately, most affected drought victims live in remote communities. As such, they have to travel far distances to reach the safety of these camps and thus risk the wrath of encountering al-Shabab.
While some refugees encounter al-Shabab at checkpoints and are merely turned back, others aren’t so lucky. For example, only recently, herders who refused to turn over their livestock to al-Shabab insurgents were attacked. While five herders were captured, two were decapitated and their corpses displayed into the town of Afgoye, nearly 20 miles south of Mogadishu.
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