Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Somali women fight for foreign aid

By Dave Talmage

Edited by Gina Edwards

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA- Throughout Somalia women are pleading with Islamic groups that have banned aid agencies. Early last year the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab declared a ban on foreign aid in areas under their control, causing devastating effects on millions of desperate people who rely on such assistance to stay alive.

No demographic has felt more pressure over this than the women of Somalia.

These women alone provide for their families. They receive very little help from male figures in society and constantly try to survive random militant attacks in the wake of a crippling civil war. Many have relied heavily on foreign aid to help feed their families and now face a very desperate situation.

The departure of foreign aid

Throughout recent years Somalia has become one of the most undesirable and difficult regions to provide aid. Blockades, threats from Islamic extremists groups and attacks on foreign aid workers have prompted many organizations to leave.

In wake of extreme violence in early 2010, the United Nations World Food Programme suspended aid to southern Somalia due to growing security threats. Over the past couple of years a growing number of aid agencies have said Somalia is too dangerous for them to operate in anymore.

In 2008 World Vision, Oxfam International and other organizations released a signed statement saying, “The crisis engulfing Somalia has deteriorated dramatically, while access to people in need continues to decrease.”

An unstable climate

With no stable government and many regions predominately ruled by Islamic extremist groups, the appeal for foreign aid organizations has dwindled while the need for aid has skyrocketed.

For nearly two decades Somalia has been in a civil war and without a permanent government. The current Transitional Federal Parliament, developed in 2008, has been so far unsuccessful in its efforts to establish a new government and stability in Somalia.

All the while Somalia has become one of the most violent and poorest states in Africa. It has been called a “failed state” and a very active hotspot for piracy and terrorist activity.

For years Islamic groups such as Al-Shabaab have banned and even blocked foreign aid organizations from distributing aid in Somalia. Bans like these and the current ban have made Somalia an unreachable environment for aid organizations, like in so many other regions of Africa.

With no end in sight for the ban women continue to struggle to provide for their families. Facing starvation, many Somali’s hope that foreign aid will reach them soon. It’s unknown if and when Al-Shabaab will lift the ban, but until then the women of Somalia continue to make their voices heard.

Photos courtesy of World Vision.

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