Friday, April 20, 2012

20 years on in the Somalia Conflict

Women and Children most vulnerable in conflict
The World Concern Blog
War in any country brings with itself very ugly repercussions especially for the vulnerable groups in the society. Recent development in Syria continue to show us that there are human right violations, poverty levels are increasing, businesses collapsing, people are displaced, killings and torture of civilians are escalating, and that children are much more vulnerable and in some instances their rights have been severely affected. But if you think that the Syria conflict only started a year ago, and the effects are so dire then begin to dig deeper on what the effects might be in Somalia where 20 years on, the instabilities continue, then you realise that the time bomb has already exploded in Somalia.

So much has been written about the effects of the war in Somalia from different angles and I think one would be narrow minded if they pretended to provide a comprehensive list of the effects in Somalia that was not group based. Practically, every single aspect of life in Somalia has been affected by the conflict, every single sector, every single grouping of people and yet there is no telling when the conflict might end (well I suppose now that there are bounties being offered for people who find Al Shabaab militia in Mogadishu by its Mayor, some stability may resume there but what about the other regions?)

All one has to do is search for ‘Somalia’ on any search engine and the effects of the Somalia conflict on the health of its people become very evident. Many people were displaced from their homes and have had to flee areas within Somalia. I have watched endless news clippings of mothers talking about how they lost all their children while they were running from war and the militia due to dehydration, malnutrition and just tiredness. Not long ago, I watched a clip where a man was interviewed about this and where he took the camera crew through the trail of graves from his home where he had had to bury his entire family (children and his wife). And this does not even begin to explain the problems of waterborne diseases that Somali refugees often are plagued with in refugee camps. Every now and then, various organisations band together to provide health services to select groups of people, whether in refugee camps or villages but what happens during the rest of the time where they have no access to medical services, and what about the other populations that cannot be reached because of insecurity problems.

The effects of the conflict on children have been even worse since they are the most vulnerable in any society. Many children have been denied the right to access medical services, education, clean water and food, clean and stable environment where they can play, and the list is endless. But perhaps it is the fact that children are often forced to join the militia and eventually become child soldiers, the fact that the girl child’s survival in Somalia is as threatened as they are forced into early marriages, sex and domestic slavery that should be most appalling to the international community. In no other conflict has the girl child been so commodified as in the Somalia conflict. And this is even made worse by extremist laws often interpreted as Islam that are forced onto the girl child. And with no stable government, the rights of girls and women will remain on the back banner longer and with this the hopes and aspirations of a generation of girls and women.

Poverty and famine, a yearly occurrence in the Horn of Africa and especially in Somalia is also fuelled by the lack of proper planning and governance as a result of the war. Lack of investment on agricultural education, agricultural infrastructure, and insecurity have made Somalis mere recipients of food aid, a practice that is unsustainable and completely dependent on whether donor organisations are able to reach the populations or even have finances to provide aid. The global recession has not helped either as countries cut on aid spending leaving more people at risk of malnutrition and related diseases.

That there is no/ insignificant foreign direct investment into Somalia, small and medium business cannot thrive in the instability, major financial institutions have collapsed, corruption is endemic (even within a government that is only responsible for a very small part of Mogadishu only), lack of proper road and transport infrastructure, electricity and water infrastructure, a critical element in business operation are nonexistent, means that the Somalia economy has but collapsed and that the ‘government’ is completely reliant on donor funding to exist.

That primary, secondary and higher education institutions have collapsed in Somalia means that many Somalis (but only those that can afford this) are being educated outside the country, choosing not to return (and do we blame them) and thus contributing in the building of other economies whilst the one in Somalia is in a state of doom. This also means that many Somalis are less likely to afford schooling, and those in refugee camps are either illiterate or more likely receive mediocre education. An entire generation of people have been denied their right to acquire something that would encourage regional if not global competitiveness.

When one really delves into the effects of Somalia, one cannot help but be pessimistic about whether the people of Somalia will ever emerge victorious from this conflict. One cannot help but wonder whether there is any myriad of solutions that can begin to tackle the dire situation of Somalis (both within and outside Somalia’s borders).

But when one sees the UN cluster of organisations and other relief organisations, multiple conferences on Somalia being held, one realises that at least some of Somalia is not forgotten, and the story of this country (with enormous potential) still continues to be told.

And the question one begs is where the world goes next on Somalia, and whether is there any number of talk shops that will ever comprehensively come up with a concrete way forward that all groups in Somalia follow with to make their country better.

On that, we wait and see as we continue the rumble!

Further reading:
From playground to battleground: children on the frontline in Somalia 
Somalia: wars may end but their effects endure
UNICEF Representative in Somalia assesses impact of conflict on children and families