Ten years after "Operation Restore Hope" Somalia is left alone to suffer

Somali people are victims of war and international neglect.
Click on image for full size © Erica Soehngen, 2002 Food distribution by MSF in Rhabdure, Bakool region, Somalia.
The disengagement of the international community since the failure of the UN military mission has been slow but steady over the last ten years. The number of international aid agencies working in Somalia has dropped dramatically from over 200 in 1992 to 61 today. Meanwhile, donor funding has dropped by 90% over the same period.
Nairobi - Ten years ago today, the UN military intervention, "Operation Restore Hope", started on the beaches of Somalia with the aim of rescuing the civilian population from hunger and violence. A decade later, the international medical organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has been working throughout that time in the country, says that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia demands serious attention today. The ongoing civil war has an enormous impact on the health and well-being of Somali people. While most of the outside world has turned its back, MSF believes that the Somali people need and deserve renewed help. "Life is hard in Somalia and the last ten years have taken a terrible toll", said Ayham Bayzid, MSF's head of mission in Galkayo. "Somalia's war-dead and wounded number tens of thousands. Three-quarter of the Somali's cannot reach health facilities because of the on-going violence. In Mogadishu, every year, MSF has to help fight a cholera epidemic, while the population is living in extreme insecure conditions. In Middle Shabelle, just a few weeks ago gunmen killed patients inside an MSF clinic. I've worked in Somalia for years now, but the suffering just doesn't seem to stop." As a consequence of the war, which started in December 1990, hundreds of thousands of Somali's have been displaced and every day people continue fleeing their homes. MSF teams themselves have been forced regularly to evacuate and close clinics and projects because of violence. The spread of infectious diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid, meningitis or tuberculosis is accelerated by the destruction of basic services and the lack of clean water. Maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. A quarter of the children does not reach the age of 5. At the same time, there are currently around 500,000 people threatened by severe food shortages. The disengagement of the international community since the failure of the UN military mission has been slow but steady over the last ten years. The number of international aid agencies working in Somalia has dropped dramatically from over 200 in 1992 to 61 today. Meanwhile, donor funding has dropped by 90% over the same period. The needs themselves continue unabated, far exceeding the operational capacity of all aid agencies currently working in Somalia put together. After twelve years of conflict and anarchy the Somali people are in more need of help than ever. MSF calls on the warring factions to respect International Humanitarian Law, which demands that civilians are protected from violence and helped to get the medical care and supplies they so desperately need. MSF also appeals to donors and international aid agencies to recognize and respond to the fact that Somalia is mired in a deepening humanitarian crisis. MSF has been working in Somalia since 1986 when it began emergency medical interventions in Somaliland. The organisation is currently based in six different regions in Somalia: Bakool, Bay, Mudug, Benadir and Middle Shabelle. MSF responds to emergencies (war wounded, epidemics, displacement, malnutrition) and focuses on primary health care, mother and child health, hospital care, vaccination programmes, and epidemiological surveillance.