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New Mission Commander for EU training mission in Somalia

Posted by African Press International on December 18, 2013


BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, December 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi was today appointed new Mission Commander for the EU training mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia).

General Mingiardi, from Italy, will take up his duties on 15 February 2014. He will succeed Brigadier General Gerald Aherne, who had been in the position since February

2013.

EUTM Somalia, launched in spring 2010, has contributed to training about 3,600 Somali troops so far, with a special focus on officers, specialists and trainers. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach for a stable, democratic and prosperous Somalia and embedded in the EU strategic framework for the Horn of Africa.

The mission provides specialised military training and mentoring in the training domain. It also delivers political and strategic advice to the Somali ministry of defence and the chief of defence forces and advises on security sector development. This is to lay the foundations of a Somali-owned military training system. In the first months of 2014, the mission is set to conduct all its advisory, mentoring and training activities in Mogadishu,

Somalia.

Today’s decision was taken by the EU’s Political and Security Committee.

Brigadier General Massimo MIGIARDI

Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi was born In 1963 in Florence. He joined the Army in 1982 and was commissioned Into the Airborne Brigade Folgore as a Platoon

Commander In 1986, after completing the four-year course at the Military Academy In

Modena and at the School of Military Studies In Torino. After two years he was appointed as an Instructor to the Military Academy.

In 1991 he was commissioned as a Company Commander In the Airborne School in Plsa.

In 1992 he was appointed as a Company Commander In the 186°Airborne Regiment In

Siena and with his company took part in Operation RESTORE HOPE and In UNISOM II In Somalia. After one year at the war college , 1994 to 95, he was appointed as a staff officer to the General Army Staff In the Intelligence Branch until 1998:

From 1998 to 1999 he attended the Joint Senior Staff Course and after one year as a staff officer In the General Defence Staff, he commanded the 5th Airborne Battalion In Siena from 1999 to 2001 taking part In Operation JOINT GUARDIAN In Kosovo.

From 2001 to 2006 he was appointed as Chief of Section In the J5 Plans Division In the IT

Joint Operations Headquarters (Italy’s PJHQ equivalent). From 2006 to 2008 he commanded the 183°Airborne Regiment Nembo In Plstola (Tuscany).

He joins the Royal College of Defence Studies In London upon completing two years as Chief of J5 Plans Division at the Italian Joint Operations Headquarters in Rome.

In October 2011 was appointed as Commander of Airborne Brigade Folgore.

From Aprll2013 Is the Deputy Commander of Infantry School.

He graduated in Political Science at Bologna University and In Military Studies at Torino University. He got a Master In Strategic Science at Torino University and a Master In International Strategic and Military Studies at Milano University.

He attended the European Security Defence Polley Orientation ourse. He enjoys a wide variety of sports (in particular skydiving} and hobbies.

SOURCE

European Council

 

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Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia condemns killing of MP

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2013

MOGADISHU, Somalia, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/– The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has strongly condemned the killing of Mohamed Warsame Feisal, a Member of the country’s Federal Parliament.

Mr. Warsame was killed this afternoon in Mogadishu when an improvised explosive device planted in his vehicle detonated. At least three others are reported to have been injured in the attack.

“I condemn this killing in the strongest terms,” SRSG Kay said. “Somalis yearn for a better future. Their Members of Parliament play a vital role in building that future.”

SRSG Kay offers his sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Warsame, as well as to the Federal Parliament of Somalia, and wishes those injured a quick recovery.

 

SOURCE

Mission of UN in Somalia

 

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My journey in back home to Somalia after almost two decades in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2013

MOGADISHU,  – My journey back to Somalia, my home country, was a dream and a choice I always wanted to achieve. I wanted to live on the soil of my ancestors away from the congested refugee ca mps of Dadaab and far from the tall buildings of Nairobi that hosted me temporarily and offered me an opportunity to be a citizen in a second home where I grew up and studied peacefully. 
After almost two decades in Kenya, I finally decided to return to the country of my origin after getting an exciting opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education in order to bring hope to the next generation and give back my skills and knowledge to my community.

I arrived at Aden Ade International Airport in Mogadishu on 26 July, a Friday morning. Almost all the passengers in the plane I was travelling in were Somalis, mostly returning from abroad. The small airport and its facilities were very busy and chaotic. It was far from international standards – with all the signs of the wreckage of war and unfinished reconstruction under way.

I was driven by a colleague in a taxi through many checkpoints with heavily armed guards comprised of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] and Somali troops. We drove along the airport road, one of the city’s most dangerous, with heavily armed security personnel at frequent road blocks.

There was a high security alert. I was extremely scared and could not believe my eyes. I thought they were clearing up the aftermath of a fight in the city, but little did I know that this was the order of the day in Mogadishu.

That day was unique in particular because it was the 17th day of Ramadan, a day on which every year [militants] are known to carry out deadly attacks to commemorate one of the Islamic holy wars that took place on this day in history.

We turned onto another highway that was also very scary for newcomers like me, but normal for local residents. It is Maka Al-Mukarama road, known for nearly non-stop hooting vehicles – mainly small shuttle buses with overloaded passengers, some hanging onto the doors and windows while the conductor clings to the rear side as he shouts for more passengers.

“Stay calm, this is normal”

This road is also one of the busiest roads in Mogadishu; it directly connects State House and the airport. The traffic is hectic and it is controlled by traffic police, military and administration police. Gunshots, I was told, are used as “traffic lights” to disperse jams and as warning shots.

Surprised at my anxiety and restlessness, the driver said: “My friend, stay calm, this is normal.” I smiled to respond positively but did not say a word. I was speechless until we reached Taleh residential area.

This area was relatively calm. Residents were busy with their daily activities during the Ramadan fast.

I stayed indoors on advice from family and friends in Kenya. I was told to minimize my movement in the city and avoid crowded areas. However, I felt very insecure even inside my room because I was traumatized by the deafening sound of gunshots outside. I hear gunshots all day, like I hear the call to prayer, and it makes me sick.

I could not understand why there are all these gunshots in the streets. Then I recall the guys I saw along the airport road and the other young men in government uniforms hanging onto the sides of vehicles speeding up Maka Al Mukarama road all with firearms pointing at the pedestrians and other passing vehicles, their fingers on the trigger.

The following day was another unpleasant experience. The Turkish embassy was attacked. I could hear the blast not far from where I was staying. The thought of going back to Kenya came to my mind but it eventually faded away later that night when the commotion ended and I saw the story on TV.

Meanwhile, the locals are fully engaged in their day-to-day activities, indifferent to what is happening around them. Besides the gunshots, explosions and chaos, there are parallel constructions, business transactions and celebrations on the eve of the Eid festival after Ramadan.

Toy guns

One of the most striking things I saw at this time were all types of big toy guns displayed in the shops for children to play with during the Eid celebrations [marking the end of Ramadan]. On the actual Eid day, I saw children smartly dressed happily enjoying the day but with huge toy guns hanging on their shoulders, shooting one another typically as though they were on a battlefield. When you see the toy guns you will never understand… I was really disappointed how these innocent children are being brought up with such destructive weapons.

Is it because their parents are ignorant? What message does it portray? How will the fresh minds of these children be affected? What does it symbolize? I think we lost two generations already and the third one is growing in a world of lawlessness and ignorance. We have to do something about this and educate today’s parents and youth to save Somalia’s next generations.

Reporting for work

I reported to work the following week. I met new friends. The environment, the people and the job were all fresh and awesome. I felt very fortunate when I sat at a desk where the flag of Somalia flies right beside the computer, a reminder of my identity.

I was motivated to be part of a young, passionate team mostly from the diaspora who came to work with the Ministry of Education. We are specifically designated to work on a unique programme that was independently run by the Ministry, unlike other partner-led projects.

This was a project dubbed “Aada Dugsiyada” (Go to School Initiative) aimed at getting one million children into free and quality public schools by 2016. All the schools in the country are privately run so the challenge of starting the first free public schools after more than two decades of war lay ahead of us.

However, the feedback from all the people – including stakeholders, donors, local media and authorities – is overwhelmingly positive.

Running a whole government ministry that has not been functioning for over 20 years is a nightmare, and requires huge support both financially and in terms of dedicated professional human resources.

Standing firm

I did not understand what “failed state” really meant until I reached Mogadishu. To be honest, I only thought the term was used just to describe how much our country was damaged, but the true picture dawned on me when I explored the capital, where all government institutions are managed.

All the concerted efforts that were made to rebuild this country were focused on primarily handling the security, which still remains a stumbling block, thus leaving the gap for all other vital areas that a fully functioning nation with its dynamic society needs.

But, interestingly, how do you describe those people who have been courageously living in the midst of all these clashes, the devastation, droughts, famine and atrocious terror situations for decades and counting – yet have been standing firm to keep going with privately run business institutions, booming markets, private schools, social and economic development, while those in diaspora have been supporting them financially doing odd jobs in odd hours and facing the challenge of detention, discrimination and death for the same course.

I was really moved when I saw how the old Somali currency is being utilized in Mogadishu. In any business transaction, no one rejects the torn, ragged and spoilt ones because they fully know that there is no replacement or functioning central bank that regulates the money, so they are happy to keep going with what they have and make their lives easy.

I am, therefore, pleased to say that the Somali community to which I belong is exceptionally resilient, productive, hardworking, courageous, intelligent and determined. These are people who can reach beyond measurable heights in the 21st century if only our own political leaders and their foreign stakeholders act honestly in all their endeavours to stabilize Somalia for a better tomorrow.

mh/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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When bullets tore through the streets of Kismayo

Posted by African Press International on August 21, 2013

Still tense… African Union troops captured Kismayo from Islamist insurgents in September 2012 (file photo)

KISMAYO/NAIROBI,  – When bullets tore through the streets of Kismayo in June, leaving over 70 dead as rival militias twice fought for control of the Somali port city, many international aid agencies halted a cautious scale-up of activities.

One of the few to stay was the World Health Organization (WHO).

“For us, conflict means casualties. We are doctors; we have to be there,” Omar Saleh, WHO Somalia’s emergency health coordinator, told IRIN.

But for most international organizations – many of which had just returned to Kismayo after militant Islamists Al-Shabab were driven out late last year – the June violence proved too dangerous.

As stability returned through July, activities slowly resumed. Still, the political and security crises that fuelled the fighting are at risk of deepening.

Jubaland issue

The recent disputes over Jubaland, a state-within-a-state whose leadership and borders are not recognized by the administration in Mogadishu, constitute a test of federal principles outlined in Somalia’s provisional constitution. The central government also seeks control of and revenue from Kismayo, Jubaland’s de facto capital.

Jubaland, which, in its maximum extent, is considered to include the regions of Gedo and Lower and Middle Juba, has 87,000sqkm of mainly fertile land and some 1.3 million people of many different clan allegiances.

Timeline of “Jubaland” disputes
2009-2010 – First discussions of the “Jubaland Initiative”, with local elites and, in part, Kenya identified as the key proponents of the plan to train anti-Al-Shabab militia and establish a regional administration in areas of Somalia bordering Kenya.
April 2011 – Former Somali Defence Minister Mohamed Abdi Mohamed forms Azania group, and is declared president of Azania, another term for the Jubaland region.
October 2011 – Kenya launches incursion into Somalia – Operation Linda Nchi – deploying some 2,000 troops across the border.
May 2012 – Nairobi-based talks charge 32-member technical committee with establishing a Jubaland administration.
August 2012 – Internationally recognized federal administration replaces Transitional Federal Government, not long after constituent assembly backs provisional constitution that outlines federal principles.
August 2012 – Internationally recognized federal administration replaces Transitional Federal Government, not long after constituent assembly backs provisional constitution that outlines federal principles.
September 2012 – Kenyan and Somali troops – partly operating under AMISOM umbrella – seize control of Kismayo from Al-Shabab, with support from the Ras Kamboni militia.
February 2013 – First Jubaland conference held in Kismayo; flag and three-year constitution adopted.
May 2013 – 500-strong conference of clan elders and local leaders elect former warlord and leader of Ras Kamboni militia Ahmed Madobe as “president” of Jubaland, a move opposed by the central government in Mogadishu. Following separate conference, former warlord and Defence Minister Col Barre Hiraale also declares himself “president” of the region. Violent clashes subsequently break out in streets of Kismayo.
July 2013 – Letter from Somali foreign minister to African Union leaked, describing “incompetence” of Kenyans and calling for deployment of “multinational” AU force to the city.
August 2013 – Communiqué issued by regional leaders at Kampala Summit demands that control of Kismayo’s airport and seaport be handed back to the federal government.

The Jubaland issue is also complicating relations between the central government in Mogadishu, regional powers Kenya and Ethiopia, and the African Union (AU) mission in Somalia (AMISOM). And with key players in Kismayo temporarily distracted, the crisis could be giving Al-Shabab a much-needed breather to regroup.

These developments threaten gains made this year by aid agencies and risk extending an already complex humanitarian situation in the city, where 60,000 people are in need of aid, according to estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Whenever territory is taken by military operations, there is at least a temporary lag setting up a functioning administration. This hampers the ability of humanitarians to access people in need,” Philippe Lazzarini, the UN’s top humanitarian official for Somalia, told IRIN.

“The change in power can stoke insecurity rooted in competition among rival factions, as we saw in Kismayo and the Juba regions,” he added.

Many years under pressure

For several years, Kismayo, 200km north of the Kenyan border, was a key stronghold and source of income for Al-Shabab. The militants took control of the city in August 2008, after defeating the militia of Barre Adan Shire (widely known as Hiiraale), and remained in control of it until their defeat in September 2012.

Kismayo was a key target in AMISOM’s operation against Al-Shabab – the militants controlled the lucrative charcoal trade out of the port and also taxed imported goods.

While civilians report some stability during Al-Shabab’s control of the city, there were also limited livelihood opportunities, and access to education and healthcare was often difficult. Al-Shabab also banned polio vaccination in Kismayo and elsewhere in south-central Somalia, and according to reports, the group forcibly taxed and recruited the city’s residents.

“Conditions for the population were so precarious under Al-Shabab,” Soldan Haji Aden, director of the Alikar Center for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy in Kismayo, told IRIN. “Residents and internally displaced persons [IDPs] who came to Kismayo could not find healthcare, water, food, shelter or some kind of livelihood.”

Kismayo and the surrounding region were also hit hard by the 2011 food crisis. While famine was not declared in Lower Juba, the situation was classified a humanitarian emergency. Many of those displaced by the food crisis crossed the border to go to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, but tens of thousands of people fled to Kismayo, where many other IDPs have gathered since the early 1990s.

“When Al-Shabab controlled Kismayo, it was very difficult to get food to feed my family,” Fadumo el Moge, a mother of five in Kismayo, told IRIN. “There was no work and Al-Shabab controlled the city and stopped humanitarian assistance. I had to rely on support from my family abroad.”

Glimmer of hope, but serious problems

Kenyan and Somali troops – the former mostly operating as part of the AU mission – attacked Kismayo in September 2012. Supported by local militia Ras Kamboni, the mixed force launched a combined ground, air and naval assault on 28 September and quickly ousted the militants from their last major urban stronghold.

While there remain major concerns about access and security, UN agencies and NGOs have launched or extended a variety of programmes, directly or through partners. Several have sent in short missions involving international staff, and humanitarian needs assessments have also been carried out.

“The challenges in Kismayo largely mirror those found throughout southern and central Somalia,” Lazzarini – who made his first visit to Kismayo as Humanitarian Coordinator in July 2013 – told IRIN. “People lack sufficient health services. They need clean water, sanitation services and education.”

Key humanitarian risks include the possibility of a polio outbreak taking hold given the long ban on vaccination, the spread of waterborne and infectious diseases within densely populated urban areas and IDP camps, and the ongoing threat of conflict in the city and beyond.

Black gold: Al-Shabab made millions exporting charcoal from Kismayo

“The situation in Kismayo is better than before,” said Saleh of WHO, which is running polio vaccination and emergency surgery programmes. “But there are major problems. Kismayo Hospital needs total renovation. We need to establish long logistic lines for supplies and medicine and build up the people who are there after so much capacity has been lost. We are progressing, however, slowly but surely.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) launched two basic programmes in January through local partners: wet feeding at five centres, reaching about 15,000 people each day, and a nutrition programme to treat high levels of malnutrition among women and young children.

Médécins Sans Frontières – which withdrew from Kismayo in 2008 after the murder of three staff members – was also active in the city, but it recentlyannounced plans to close all of its Somalia programmes due to “extreme attacks” on its staff. A number of other agencies are present, but are reluctant to share details of their operations.

Recent setbacks

Kismayo’s uneasy peace was shattered in June, when fighting broke out between rival militias laying claim to the presidency of Jubaland. The violence underscored the fragility of Kismayo’s early recovery and the dangers that remain.

“The tensions have been a setback – in particular, the fighting on 28-30 June, which resulted in more than 70 deaths and hundreds of civilian casualties,” said Lazzarini.

Clashes first broke out in early June and then again at the end of the month, with rival factions battling for control of the city. WHO reported a 44 percent rise in weapons-related injuries in Kismayo in June. The fighting pitted Ahmed Mohamed Islam “Madobe” – who was elected president of Jubaland in May by a conference of clan representatives – and his Ras Kamboni militia against other figures who also declared themselves leaders of the region.

Human Rights Watch criticized the militias for disregarding the safety of civilians, while a leaked letter from Somali Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf to the AU accused the Kenyan military of backing Ras Kamboni in the June clashes and of using heavy weapons in civilian areas. Analysts say Kenya has been encouraging the creation of Jubaland, which could act as a buffer zone on its northern border.

On 4 August 2013, in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, regional heads of state decided in a communique that control of Kismayo’s airport and seaport should be handed back to the Federal Government – backing Mogadishu against Madobe.

But the violence had already taken its toll. A critical polio vaccination campaign, which targeted tens of thousands of at-risk children, was halted. Although the effort was restarted in July, the delay is concerning given the 100 cases of polio confirmed in Somalia in 2013.

WFP’s food distribution activities were also disrupted, threatening recent gains in food security since the 2011 crisis. “The port has largely been inaccessible, so for essentially two months we couldn’t get food there,” Challiss McDonough, WFP’s spokesperson, told IRIN. “We did an exchange with another organization but had to suspend cooked meals in late July. We are in the process of getting more food there and hope to be able to resume by mid-August.”

The instability in Kismayo also threatens hopes of early refugee repatriation from Kenya. According to the UN Refugee Agency  (UNHCR), some 96,000 refugees in Dadaab – representing over 35 percent of the camp’s population – have origins in Lower Juba and are unlikely to agree to any negotiated return while significant violence still threatens the region’s capital and civilian population.

Despite the negative humanitarian outlook following June’s violence, some agencies remain upbeat.

“The local authorities told me that they are ready to ensure the security of humanitarian workers,” said Lazzarini. “We are redeploying staff… We will continue to work hard to scale-up our activities, not only in Kismayo but throughout southern Somalia.”

OCHA recognizes that the situation in the city “remains tense”, and as MSF’s recent withdrawal from the country demonstrates, the conditions for humanitarian activity in Kismayo and elsewhere will likely remain precarious for some time

zf/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Unchained Minds: Somalis Mental Health State.

Posted by African Press International on July 21, 2013

  • By Farhia Ali Abdi

Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with” Adam Ant.

The past and present capacity:

Given the Somalia political and economic turmoil suffered during the civil war, the country’s mental health system collapsed, and mental health disorder became rampant across the country.  To date, government in Somalia does not have an official mental health plan of action to combat mental illness, rebuild facilities, and grant funding to support programs. The apparent lack of medicine, and adequately trained staff and professionals have forced families, and mental health centers to chain their patients to beds or rocks as it shows in the picture above, leaving them with permanent trauma and physical injuries.

World Health Organization (WHO) indicated in their recent study of Somalia’s mental health care that people with mental illness in Somalia face degrading and dangerous cultural practices such as being restrained with chains, which are not only widespread, but also socially and culturally accepted.  WHO further expressed that Somalia has one of the world highest rates of mental-health disorder. Approximately, one-third of its eight million Somalis are affected by some kind of mental disorder, yet there are only three trained psychiatrists in the entire country who specialize in mental illness. Psychiatry as a profession is heavily stigmatized in Somalia by both the general public and the medical community. Healing for mental problems is provided by religious leaders or by traditional healers, and it has become an ineffective method in the current Somalia society.

Historical Context:

The country established a health care system after its independence in the 1960s; however, in the 1970s, there were few noticeable achievements with the military regime run health care system such as the creation of medical schools in Mogadishu and in Hargeisa (Nursing). Nonetheless, problems within the country’s meager national health care system were exacerbated by the state’s collapse in 1991. At this time, the healthcare system suffered a major setback and forced many Somalis to go without proper health care.

In a conceptual framework, Somali culture considers mental health as one is either “crazy or not crazy.” There is no assortment of health and disease, mental health and mental illness.   People’s beliefs and understanding of mental illness are predominately spiritual and metaphysical: mental illness comes from evil spirits; it can be brought on by another person or oneself through curses or bad behavior. These beliefs, coupled with the lack of a strong plan on mental health in the government at the federal, regional, and local levels, deepen the country’s mental health crisis.  According to, a 2010 World Health Organization report: “A Situation Analysis of Mental Health in Somalia,” medical education and training of health professionals is a key issue for the health sector as a whole. There are no medical institutes, universities and schools that have an internationally recognized and standardized curriculum. The only exception is the Nursing School in Hargeisa, recognized by WHO. They further noted that, there is one private medical school in Gaalkacyo, the Gaalkacyo University, which started in 2006, the first basic training program for Assistant Physicians (three-year course). In the South, the Benadir School covers the whole South-Central Zone. Aside from Somaliland, there has been no effort to introduce curriculum focused on mental health curriculum into the basic teaching package. The lack of resources, including, medical equipment, and administer medications and treat emerging high rates of trauma-related disorders throughout the country, requires an urgent attention.

Contemporary Somali Society:

Since the aftermath of the civil war, there is an apparent change in the perceptions and stigma regarding mental health. The causes of mental illness are now understood as chemical imbalance rather than a bad spirit. Specialized mental health professionals in the diaspora and locals in Somalia brought a new approach of looking at mental illness diagnosis and treatments, and in so doing, reduce the barrier to seeking care. Their efforts are already making a huge difference in how people view mental health disorders and to seek information to improve their conditions. For example, in Mogadishu, there are few mental health facilities run by Abdirsaq Ali Habeeb. Mr. Habeeb is a Psychiatry Nurse by training and operates mental health centers to care for in patients and outpatients with the support of NGOs such as the World Health Organization and other donors. Mr. Habeeb who is living in Mogadishu goes out to the streets of Mogadishu to find chained, mentally ill persons; he unchains them and brings them to his facilities for care, thus restoring their dignity. In Somaliland, there are similar public and private mental health centers with the same patient treatments and outcomes. These facilities are sustained by the support of few donors and NGOs such as the World Health Organizations (WHO).

The new understanding of mental health illness in Somalia is partially due to the contribution from Somali diaspora professionals who are returning home.  Good example is the recent opening of Somalia Mental Health Foundation Centre in Puntland region by Dr. Abas M. Jama and his colleague Mr. Hassan M. Esse. Dr. Jama and his colleague Mr. Esse are Somali diaspora professionals and the founders of The Somalia Mental Health Foundation. Their foundation is a non-profit organization that provides services and guidance for people with mental health conditions. One of the program’s mandates is to develop adequate facilities with highly qualified mental health professionals for the diagnosis and treatment of mental, neurological and psycho-social disorder. Furthermore, the mandate states that the foundation is to set up mental health camps where psychiatric consultation and medicines are provided free-of-charge. What is unique about this particular organization is that, it is initiated and run by Somali diaspora professionals who decided to dedicate their time and effort to support other Somalis inside the country, and one that I hope others follow suit.

Dr. Jama is a well-respected Psychiatrist by training in the United States. He has a private practice in Sandusky, Ohio and specializes in adult psychiatry. He is a member of the Medical Staff of Firelands Regional Medical Center and Firelands Physician Group, Mercy Hospital in Lorain, Ohio and a member of the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Jama recognizes the need to treat individuals who are suffering from mental illness in Somalia as a result of the prolonged civil war, and the absence of proper mental health centers to treat these individuals. Hence, Dr. Jama and his colleagues opened their first office in Qardha, Puntland, and are working their way throughout the country to treat mental illness. The facility is run by Abdiqani Abdullahi Askar who has a Bachelor of Nursing Degree and Medical Psychiatry Training Certificate. Since opening the clinic in 2011, Dr. Jama and Abdiqani have treated over 4000 patients and returned to the region twice to train nurses, educate patients and their family members, and dispense medication.

Dr. Jama’s vision in Somalia is to establish collaborative working relationships with the medical community and hospitals in Somalia in order to facilitate needed medical training to care for mentally ill patients.  The top priority for this year he said is to provide and develop educational training programs. To this end, Dr. Jama (The Somali Mental Health Foundation) in partnership with the existing Mental Health Centers in Somali such as Mr. Habeeb’s run facilities in Mogadishu will conduct a two-four week of educational course on mental illness to nurses, nurse practitioners, and aides who live in Mogadishu and the surrounding region. The training program will be offered in three different cities in Somalia. Moreover, as part of this course, Dr. Jama will train approximately 60-100 nurses and aids in Somalia in the effort to give the participants the necessary tools and knowledge desperately required to treat mental illness.

More than providing education, Dr. Jama and his colleagues are changing societal views on mental illness by helping to lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness in Somalia. By this, they are providing the platform for sufferers to seek needed medical care for their illness. In Puntland regions, the municipal officials are putting requests to Dr. Jama to train the hospital staff in order to care for patients. As seen from video clips on their website: http://somalimentalhealthfoundation.com/ people are lining up for treatments.  A recent interview on Somali TV, the Dr. and his colleague Mr. Esse expressed an overwhelming experience by the new patients who for the first time since their illnesses were released from their chains.Line up in front of The Somali Mental Health Foundation, Qardha center, November, 2011

Though there are no monitoring oversight bodies except for the mental health institutions that regularly monitor patients at health facilities, this is a tremendous achievement on the onset of fighting mental illness in the country.

Advocacy and Public Education and Awareness

In an interview with Al-Jazeera TV, 2011, Mr. Habeeb who runs the Mental Health Centre in Mogadishu said, “I believe there is no one with good mental health in Mogadishu or in the entire South and Central Somalia because of what is going on. Normal people will not kill and maim their own, and for such a long time.” This is true for the entire country and there are dire needs for trained and educated professionals within the field of Mental Health and on the health field in general. The 2001 UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report, ranked Somalia lowest in all health indicators except life expectancy. In its latest report, the country is not even ranked due to the lack of reliable data. Somalia needs human resources for medical health development who can deliver integrated primary health care services. The backbone of any health care system is the mental health and in order to maintain and encourage a culture in which respect and healing for the mentally ill are a priority, there needs to be an education.  The new concept of training medical practitioners as exemplified by Dr. Jama and his colleagues has been successful, and it should be considered as a viable strategy for treating mental illness in Somalia and enhancing community awareness of mental illness.

Due to the long neglect of mental health issues in Somalia, and the long-held beliefs on mental illness, the country needs Somali community organizations, and community health centers such as the one developed by Dr. Jama, Mr. Esse, and Mr. Habeeb. Somali led mental health treatment, and training is the best hope for Somalia. Dr. Jama’s actions will hopefully encourage other diaspora professionals to invest back to the country. The efforts of these professionals have led to many successes, and Somalia continues to benefit from their tireless efforts and much-needed expertise in establishing a comprehensive strategy for battling mental illness in Somalia. Creating community awareness and empowerment in the area of mental health is a key to treating the disease and with the training and support from the international NGO also, will position Somalis to further improve mental illness. The current Somali government also needs to encourage, support, and partner with Somali professionals with mental health expertise to create mutual support, conduct advocacy and influence the policy-making process in line with international human rights standards.

The way forward for mental health policy implementation is to.

  • Establish a centralized public health institution mandated in managing the Mental Health program and services in the country.
  • Integrate mental health into the primary health care services, so mental health care can be seen as an essential aspect of health care.
  • Create a clear, well communicated future vision for the healthcare system, and to consider mental health research findings that can be used most effectively in influencing the delivery of services.
  • Assist in capacity building on the community-level models of care that effectively involved in mental health treatment and delivery of services.
  • Support service providers and users alike to understand and promote human rights, recovery and rehabilitation of mental illness, and to recognize mental health as a crucial component of personal health.
  • Lastly, build and maintain a health care related database in the country.

End

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Norway condemns attack on UN in Somalia

Posted by African Press International on June 23, 2013

Norway strongly condemns the attack on the UN compound in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. “This was a cowardly attack against UN organisations that are providing support and assistance to a very hard-hit population,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås.

The UN Common Compound in Mogadishu was hit by a terrorist attack on June 19 2013. Several people were killed in the attack.

“Acts of this kind are completely unacceptable. The attack on the UN is an attack on the entire international community. It violates basic principles of humanity and humanitarian work,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide

Somalia has just emerged from one of the most severe famines the world has seen in recent years, and the disaster continues to affect the everyday lives of over a million Somalis. Last year Somalia established a new Government, which has started to turn the trend of persistent negative development into progress. For the first time in decades there is a sense of cautious optimism in Somalia.

Norway has provided extensive humanitarian assistance to Somalia in recent years. The efforts of the UN are of crucial importance to Somalia’s future, and the UN is a vital channel for Norwegian aid to the country. Norway will continue to support the Government in Mogadishu and to promote peaceful development in Somalia that remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for local and international aid workers to work.

“Our thoughts are with those affected by the terrorist attack and their families. The attack targeted people who carry out crucially important work every day to help the people in one of the world’s poorest and most conflict-ridden countries,” Mr Holmås said.

end

 

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Norway strongly condemns attack on UN in Somalia

Posted by African Press International on June 21, 2013

Norway strongly condemns the attack on the UN compound in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. “This was a cowardly attack against UN organisations that are providing support and assistance to a very hard-hit population,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås.

The UN Common Compound in Mogadishu was hit by a terrorist attack on June 19 2013. Several people were killed in the attack.

“Acts of this kind are completely unacceptable. The attack on the UN is an attack on the entire international community. It violates basic principles of humanity and humanitarian work,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

Somalia has just emerged from one of the most severe famines the world has seen in recent years, and the disaster continues to affect the everyday lives of over a million Somalis. Last year Somalia established a new Government, which has started to turn the trend of persistent negative development into progress. For the first time in decades there is a sense of cautious optimism in Somalia.

Norway has provided extensive humanitarian assistance to Somalia in recent years. The efforts of the UN are of crucial importance to Somalia’s future, and the UN is a vital channel for Norwegian aid to the country. Norway will continue to support the Government in Mogadishu and to promote peaceful development in Somalia that remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for local and international aid workers to work.

“Our thoughts are with those affected by the terrorist attack and their families. The attack targeted people who carry out crucially important work every day to help the people in one of the world’s poorest and most conflict-ridden countries,” Mr Holmås said.

 

End

 

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What now for UNPOS and AMISOM in Somalia?

Posted by African Press International on May 17, 2013

NAIROBI,  – Following the unanimous adoption of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolu tion setting up an integrated mission in Somalia, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) will be set up for an initial one-year period beginning on 3 June; it will be based in the capital Mogadishu

The UN defines an integrated mission as one in which there is a shared vision among all the UN actors at country level.“This strategic objective is the result of a deliberate effort by all elements of the UN system to achieve a shared understanding of the mandates and functions of the various elements of the UN presence at country level and to use this understanding to maximize UN effectiveness, efficiency, and impact in all aspects of its work,” say the Integrated Mission Planning Guidelines endorsed in 2006 by the Secretary-General.According to the resolution, the mission is intended to help Somalia build on the political gains made over the past year; assist the country to develop a federal system of government; review its constitution and hold a constitutional referendum; and facilitate preparations for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2016.

In addition, UNSOM will “promote respect for human rights and women’s empowerment, promote child protection, prevent conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, and strengthen justice institutions.”

UN agencies working in Somalia are expected to move there. Many are currently based in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

In this briefing, IRIN looks at what an integrated approach means for Somalia.

What is the political, humanitarian situation in Somalia?

Somalia has recently made progress towards stability. In 2012, the country set up a functioning federal government under the leadership of President Sheikh Hassan Mohamud, the first such administration since 1990.

However, there continue to be huge political and humanitarian challenges. Insurgents, who still control parts of the country, continue to launch deadly attacks regularly, while more than one million Somalis are displaced due to conflict and drought. One million more have crossed into neighbouring countries, mainly Kenya and Ethiopia.

A 2013 report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that over 250,000 Somalis, many of them children under five, died as a result of famine between October 2010 and April 2012. They were unable to receive any humanitarian assistance, in part, due to insecurity.

What is UNSOM’s role?

On 6 March 2013 the Security Council had, while partially lifting a 20-year-old arms embargo on Somalia and extending the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), for another year, agreed with the UN Secretary-General that the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) had “fulfilled its obligation” and needed to be replaced by an integrated mission to give the Somali administration “a single door to knock on”.

“It looks like an ambitious plan and is probably the most significant engagement in Somalia by the UN in decades,”

The new mission, to be headed by a special representative of the Secretary-General would include, “the provision of policy advice to the Federal Government and AMISOM on peace-building and state-building in the areas of governance, security sector reform and rule of law (including the disengagement of combatants); development of a federal system (including preparations for elections in 2016); and coordination of international donor support.”

All the UN country teams, both political and humanitarian in Somalia, would be expected, with immediate effect, to coordinate all their activities with the head of the newly established mission.

The office of the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia is expected to fall under the office of the special representative from the beginning January 2014.

What now for UNPOS and AMISOM?

With the creation of an integrated mission, UNPOS ceases to exist. Established in 1995 and headed by a special representative of the Secretary-General, UNPOS’s role was mainly political, facilitating political dialogue and peace-building activities. In his letter to the UNSC seeking the establishment of an integrated mission in Somalia, the Secretary-General said UNPOS had fulfilled its mandate and should “be dissolved and replaced by a new expanded special political mission as soon as possible”.

The Somalia Federal Government is largely propped up by the 18,000-strong AMISOM force.

A technical assistance mission to Somalia by the Secretary-General recommended in its report “use of local UN-contracted and trained security guards, the impending deployment of an AMISOM guard force in Mogadishu, and reliance on Somali National Security Forces (SNSF). If these are deemed insufficient, UN Guard Units or international private security companies could be utilized.”

AMISOM has always been involved in limited humanitarian assistance but it is not clear if this will continue with UNSOM.

The UNSC in its resolution, urges the newly appointed special representative to align closely with other stakeholders in Somalia, including UN country teams, the federal government, AMISOM, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the European Union and “other regional, bilateral and multilateral partners”.

Experts, say the success of UNSOM will depend on whether it aligns its operations with the different actors in Somalia, some of whom may have qualms about sharing their areas of expertise and/or influence.

“The number of pivotal actors dealing with Somalia has increased as of late, not least as new donors have come in and stepped up their support. Hence, if the international community is serious about UNSOM and would like to see it fulfil its mandate, actors need to be aligned behind UNSOM,” Dominik Balthasar, an expert on Somalia at Chatham House, told IRIN. “Yet, this might possibly be a hard bullet to bite for other actors such as AMISOM or IGAD, as the participation of UNSOM is likely to restrict the roles they have played thus far.”

Abdi Aynte, executive director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), a Mogadishu-based think tank, said: “With respect to its relations with AMISOM, the hope is that they become mutually reinforcing [and] not mutually exclusive [since] AMISOM is widely viewed positively.”

What are the merits of UNSOM?

UNSOM will merge the UN’s humanitarian and political operations in Somalia, providing an opportunity to harness the operational capacities of the many agencies into a single mission.

“It looks like an ambitious plan and is probably the most significant engagement in Somalia by the UN in decades,” Cedric Barnes, director, Horn of Africa programmes at the International Crisis Group, told IRIN.

HIPS’s Aynte said the integrated mission will provide a single international community narrative on Somalia, something he says the Somalis have wanted for a long time.

A unification of the development and humanitarian pillars in Somalia, others have argued, would help marshal the much-needed international funding to remedy the situation in Somalia while also “creating coherence and unifying strategies”.

Elmi Ahmed Duale, Somalia’s ambassador to the UN, described the resolution as important and said it had ensured “there was only “one door” to knock on, “as opposed to fragmented approaches in coordinating assistance”.

According to ICG’s Barnes, this will be dependent on how much the government is willing to cede in the new engagement.

“It would be interesting to see how this will play out with a government that might want to assert authority while at the same time fronting the issue of sovereignty,” Barnes added.

The fact that Al Shabab is listed as a terrorist group has made it difficult for many humanitarian agencies to have an engagement with it, at least for the purposes of offering humanitarian assistance in areas still under the group’s control.

Why the dissenting voices against UNSOM?

Humanitarians have voiced their concerns against merging humanitarian operations with political and military activities, arguing it would make their work in Somalia difficult as it runs the risk of delegitimizing humanitarian actors.

“As many Somalis continue to struggle to obtain the basic necessities for survival, such as food, health care, and protection from violence, humanitarian assistance must remain a priority and it must remain completely independent of any political agenda,” Jerome Oberreit, secretary-general of Médecins Sans Frontières, said in a statement.

“The humanitarian aid system must not be co-opted as an implementing partner of counter-insurgency or stabilization efforts in Somalia,” he added.

In March, InterAction, The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and Voluntary Organizations in Cooperation in Emergencies (VOICE), said in a joint statement that the decision risked jeopardizing the delivery of impartial humanitarian assistance in the country: “By requiring UN humanitarian coordination to fall under the political mandate of the new UN peace-building mission in Somalia, the neutrality, impartiality and independence of humanitarian action will be compromised.”

Russel Geekie, public information officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Somalia office, said: “The integration should not hamper the delivery of aid. In its most recent resolution on Somalia (SC resolution 2102, which follows up on 2093), the Security Council reiterated that impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian assistance must be ensured, wherever those in need are.”

According Chatham House’s Balthasar, integrating humanitarian operations into the broader politico-military stabilization plans “runs the risk of constraining humanitarian space, but that this does not necessarily need to be the case. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that humanitarian aid has always been political and that it has frequently been instrumentalized by a wide variety of actors – not least by those who oppose the government.” With an eye towards the dynamics surrounding humanitarian space in Somalia, he added that ever since Al Shabab had been put on the back foot, humanitarian actors who had become accustomed to negotiating with the insurgents to deliver humanitarian aid lacked clarity over who was in control and how to safely deliver aid.

“Basically, the political situation on the ground appears to have become more, rather than less, complicated. In this situation, devising an integrated mission might not be the worst of all options for the sake of prioritizing stability and the establishment of functioning structures of governance,” he added.

ko/kr/oa/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Victimizing rape victims in Somalia: Time to eliminate the cultural taboo of gender based violence

Posted by African Press International on April 7, 2013

  • By Farhia Ali Abdi

“Women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including in some cases as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group”(UN resolution 1820)

The media headline around the world read, “Somalia has sentenced a woman, allegedly raped by government soldiers, to jail, along with a journalist who spoke to her about the attack”.  This case ignited global outrage and divided Somalis regarding the definition of rape and the cultural interpretation of sexual assault.

Since the collapse of the central government in 1991, Somalia has been subject to widespread violence and instability.  A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was succeeded by a new federal government in September, 2012. Somali security forces, with the assistance of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and others, have liberated the capital city of Mogadishu and other key cities in southern and central Somalia from administration by al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist movement.  However, the new federal government’s reach and ability to provide services remain limited.

Rape Culture in today’s Somali Society.

Rape culture is a concept used to describe a society in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.  Unfortunately, rape has become epidemic in Somali according to those who work closely with people throughout the country. And while these kinds of assaults, are not new in the country, particularly for those who live in the refugee camps (internally displaced persons), the repercussions from the trial cited above has imparted significant additional damage to the combat against gender based sexual assaults.

In January, 2013 a 27-year-old Somali woman, claimed to have been gang-raped by government soldiers. The victim was later arrested according to the report from Somalia by police and taken to the Central Investigations Department (C.I.D.) where she was interrogated and forced to retract her allegations against the security forces. The rape victim and the reporter who interviewed her were accused of fabricating false claim against government soldiers and were said to have been profiting from the allegations. Both the reporter and the victim were later convicted and sentenced to one year in prison at the time. The implication of this conviction goes beyond the accused. The imprisonment of a victim of rape sends the wrong message to women everywhere in Somalia most of whom are already intimidated by the untamed gangs including soldiers. This verdict has condoned violence against women. It reinforces and further entrenches old and outdated attitudes and actions towards women in current Somali society.  There is a culture of denial, silence and stigma in Somalia when it comes to rape. It is a taboo subject and people are already afraid to talk about it.  The Somali Human Development report describes how “traditional Somali society is conditioned not to openly discuss issues such as domestic violence and rape, which further hampers women’s access to justice”(SHDR).

In this context, the price of rape for Somali women is severe and has multifaceted implications for individuals and their families. Rape or any sexual assaults is cultural taboo in Somali society, it leads to shame and in the most serious of cases, the ostracism of family members. In some cases, communities continue to fuel the stigma, stereotyping and discrimination against the victims who are already traumatized and isolated.

The director of Somalia’s rape victim’s crisis center in Mogadishu has reported that:

“Younger girls, often 16 or 17, are usually afraid to tell their parents they have been raped and may now be pregnant, for fear they will not be believed, especially by their fathers; so they run away and stay at our center.  These younger victims are the ones who are most reluctant to report they were raped because they are also worried about their future and whether being a victim of rape will lessen their chances for marriage.”

There are a lot of displaced refugees within Somalia, about 1, 373,080 in Mogadishu alone according to the UNHCRs 2013 Country Operations Report.  Women and children in these camps are extremely neglected, living in unprotected and congested settlements; where women and girls are particularly exposed to sexual and gender-based violence.  In a recent interview, Zainab Hawa  Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, she recounted  how the “U.N. had evidence that 1700 Somali women had been raped in camps for internally displaced people in the Mogadishu area between January and November last year, with the majority of perpetrators reportedly wearing uniforms.”  It is safe to assume the incidents within camps in other parts of the country, may be just as high, but was not reported.

Current Somali Justice System:

Somalia developed its justice system after independence in 1960 by unifying legislation and judicial structure drawn from colonial and Islamic legal customs and traditions. It was reformed in 1969 after the military coup, based on scientific socialism and included additional reforms implemented through the military regime in control. The judiciary, however, collapsed after the civil war and there is no uniform system of criminal justice administration in Somalia today. Enforcement of criminal laws, therefore, is haphazard to nonexistent.  There are regional and locally established courts operating throughout Somalia under a combination of Somali customary and Islamic Shari’a law; some of which lack legitimacy in the eyes of the wider population. The Somali Human Development Report (2012) indicates that in Somalia the “traditional laws, used in lieu of a state judiciary, are highly discriminatory against women” (HDR).

In a recent interview (Feb, 2013) with Al Jazeera, the president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said that while his government “is the only government that is dedicated to improving the lives of women in Somalia; he will not directly interfere with the ongoing court case. He added, “I don’t have the right to interfere in the judiciary system… my interference with the judiciary system, will never help the rule of law in Somalia,”

Similar remarks from the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s office, Mahamoud Abdulle, were quoted in an interview with the British newspaper the Guardian on March 07, 2013 regarding the journalist arrested with the rape victim “it’s not our (government’s), decision and we can’t do a lot about it…We have an independent judiciary that is in its infancy, and we cannot interfere with that…”It’s important to be careful about making allegations against the police. They have done a very good job in large areas of society. Of course there might be a few bad apples in the barrel.”

While the President and his government’s representative’s remarks about non-interference with “the rule of law” are admirable, it doesn’t reflect the reality of a country with an inadequate judiciary system. The President cannot take the high road, while the justice system in place in the country, is so disjointed.

These are not remarks that a government should be making at the same time that its citizens are being terrorized and victimized by the same people who were entrusted to protect them. These are serious matters that do not require masking, but rather require a hard look at the root of the problem. Now, is the time to construct a sustainable justice system in Somalia, run by a qualified, trained and unbiased judiciary and guided by structured legislation. As the Prime Minister’s secretary pointed out, the judiciary system is “in its infancy” and it does require direction. The federal government needs to outline a comprehensive strategy to increase the coordination of a gender-based violence prevention and response system.

Currently, hundreds of millions of aid dollars pour through big agencies that provide food, water, and health services to the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps and to the country in general., Somalia’s dramatically escalating sexual violence, however, is being largely ignored both by the international community and the government of Somalia. The situation of women in Somalia today calls for an urgent moral stand. Women, who are the majority of the victims in Somalia, must receive more attention and more protection.

Women in Somalia, as in all countries around the world, should have the right to be free from the gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual and psychological harm. Society needs to condemn violence against women, find justice for victims; and protect and empower all women. Women in Somalia live with domestic violence, constant fear of rape, lack of health care and basic needs and cultural inferiority. It is time for society to stand up and speak up for these women. Somali needs to reject the fear of violence and sexual assaults that is pervasive in the country today.

  • The way forward:

In many countries where a rape crisis exists, the stigma can be overwhelming, making the gathering of information about sexual violence all the more difficult. As mentioned earlier, speaking out publicly about rape or sexual violence can leave a woman both shunned and abandoned by her community. While the problem of gender-based violence appears monumental in nature, there are ways to address it:

  •  
  • The government has a responsibility to bring about legislation that criminalize violence and sexual assault against women
  • The government has a responsibility to take the lead on educating and raising awareness about the growing issue of sexual violence
  •  
  • Somalia needs a strong justice system that will build people’s confidence in the State’s institutions and systems and that will seek to remove the impunity pervasive in Somalia today.
  • The government needs to establish the authority required to administer criminal-justice and put in place qualified, reliable, and unbiased judiciary bodies that can deal with the nation’s affairs.
  • The government must protect women and treat women’s rights as a shared responsibility, recognising women as rightful Somali citizens who can live without fear of sexual and physical assault.    
  • The government must set policies that include strategies to combat and prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence; which encourage local and national ownership of the problem and its solution.
  • There must be proper institutions in place that can respond to the victim’s needs and rehabilitation, and which include protection from re-victimization.
  • Finally, the government needs to strengthen its research and data collection capacity, which can then guide and enhance gender-based violence prevention and response efforts; and can best shape programs to address the issue of gender-based violence.

 

End.

 

 

 

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Humanitarian challenges in Somalia after the fall of Al Shabab

Posted by African Press International on November 10, 2012

MOGADISHU,  – After two decades of civil war, Somalia is finally seeing hope for lasting peace. After the August departure of Al-Shabab insurgents, thousands of p eople have returned to the capital, Mogadishu, looking to rebuild their lives, and in September, the election of a new president was widely viewed as the start of a new era for the country.
Below, IRINhighlights some of Somalia’s key health and socio-economic indicators, obtained from local experts and other sources, that will influence the country’s progress as it seeks to leave conflict behind.
Health infrastructure: Somalia faces numerous health challenges, central among them the absence of an effective national health system, according to former acting health minister Abdiaziz Sheikh Yusuf. After the 1991 overthrow of the former government, hundreds of doctors and nurses fled the country, and medical services were taken over by the private sector, the UN and NGOs. Under a new cabinet structure announced on 4 November, the health ministry will now fall under the Social Development Services Ministry, which will be led by Maryan Qasim. This new ministry will also cover education, youth and sports.
Malnutrition: At least 28 percent of Somalia’s population – some 2.12 million people – are currently food insecure, a drop from the peak of over 4 million people in 2011. An estimated 236,000 people are acutely malnourished and in need of specialized nutrition treatment, according to a 26 September Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit report.
While exact figures on national undernutrition prevalence are not available from the government, poor nutrition is recognized as a major problem. Lul Mohamud Mohamed, a Mogadishu-based paediatrician, told IRIN that malnutrition there is worsened by diseases such as measles.
Child mortality: Somalia ranks first in the world in under-five mortality, according to the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) 2012 State of the World’s Children report. Children face poor healthcare coverage and quality, low immunization rates, high levels of malnutrition and frequent disease outbreaks.

Potable water: Only 30 percent of Somalia’s population has access to improved drinking water sources and only 23 percent has access to improved sanitation facilities, according to UNICEF’s report. While the government does not know the exact number of Somalis without access to clean drinking water, Yusuf, the former acting health minister, told IRIN that there are insufficient water wells in the country, describing this as one of the most important challenges facing the new government.
Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs): Somalia continues to be the leading refugee source country in the Horn of Africa, mainly due to its insecurity. As of 31 October, over 1 million people had fled Somalia to neighbouring countries; about half of them are being hosted in Kenya, mainly in the eastern Dadaab camps. The rest of the refugees are spread out in countries such as Yemen, Ethiopia and Uganda, according to the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR). An estimated 1.36 million Somalis are internally displaced, mainly in the south-central regions. According to UNICEF, an estimated 27 percent of Somalia’s population (or about 2 million people), half of whom are children, remain in a state of humanitarian crisis.
Press freedom: The Committee to Protect Journalists has labelled Somalia one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Eighteen journalists having been killed there this year alone, and 20 others have been wounded in attacks, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists. The killings have been blamed on Al-Shabab militants, who still control many rural parts of south-central Somalia, although the insurgent group has yet to claim responsibility for the killings.

Women and politics: The constitution mandates women comprise 30 percent of Somalia’s parliament, but that number currently stands at only 15 percent. In the recently unveiled new cabinet, two of the 10 ministers announced were women: Qasim will be the new Social Development Services Minister, and Fauzia Yusuf Haji Aden will head the high-profile foreign ministry. The nominations have yet to be ratified by Somalia’s parliament.
Agriculture: Somalia has a land area of about 637,657sqkm, of which 70 percent is considered ‘agricultural land’, or land suitable for farming and pasture, according to World Bank data. But only 1.6 percent of the total land area is arable, according to Hussein Haji, an agricultural expert and the executive director of the Somali Agricultural Technical Group. And only 10 percent of arable land is currently being cultivated, with farmers in the sorghum- and maize-growing Bay and Bakool regions depending on rain-fed agriculture.
Haji estimates that agriculture contributes about 40 percent of Somalia’s Gross National Product; tomatoes, onions and sesame are some of Somalia’s cash crops, and cereal yields include wheat, rice, maize, barley, oats, rye, millet, sorghum, buckwheat and mixed grains harvested for dry grain only. But production is very low because farmers lack access to quality inputs and irrigation, Haji said. For example, from 2007-2011, the cereal yield in Somalia was 432kg per hectare of harvested land, compared to Austria’s 5,358kg and Ethiopia’s 1,674kg, according to World Bank data.
Livestock: Somalia has about 60 million heads of livestock, according to estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Somalia exports livestock, mainly goats, to the Arabian Peninsula, and the meat is also locally consumed. Raising livestock is the main economic activity in most central regions, as well as in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, in northeastern Somalia, and in the self-declared republic of Somaliland.
Fishing and tourism: Somalia has about 3,300km of coastline, which, if well utilized, could help improve the country’s economy. If Somali fishermen could access the right training and equipment, the country could feed itself, Mohamed Sheikh Ahmed, an economist and lecturer at the Mogadishu-based SIMAD University, told IRIN. Ahmed also noted the coastline could also be used to develop a tourism sector, as the country enjoys pristine beaches. “In some parts of the country, you can see forests almost mingling with the sea while camels graze nearby. This is beautiful and can be a tourist attraction, if utilized,” he said. Rampant insecurity, however, remains a major challenge.
Youth: The country has a significant youth population, with about 42 percent of Somalis being aged 14 to 29. But the youth are mainly idle; unemployment among them stands at a high of 67 percent – one of the highest such rates in the world, according to the 2012 UN Development Programme’s Somalia Human Development Report. Youth must be given opportunities, “as their exclusion, resentment and grievances are fuel for conflict escalation and risky behaviours,” the report says.
amd/aw/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

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