US 'War on Terrorism' now focusing on second humanitarian disaster
28 January 2002
Galkayo - After the US-led so-called 'war on terrorism' seems to have passed its peak in Afghanistan, the superpower is now focusing its war efforts on another country in ruins: Somalia. The international coalition suspects the Horn of Africa country to be a hiding and training place for terrorists. For some weeks US and British war ships have been patrolling the Somalia coastline to hamper suspected Al-Qa'eda fighters reaching Somalia, and overland reconaissance flights by the US and French air forces are increasing by the day. Around the speculations about possible interventions that are humming in the international media, little attention is given to the humanitarian crisis faced by many Somalis. After almost 11 years of anarchy, the country is divided in power blocks, with large parts of the country ruled by ruthless warlords. Regular fighting continues to produce civilian casualties on an almost daily base and cripples efforts to reconstruct the country. In most parts of the country, a working health system is part of history. The country is rife with a multitude of serious infectious diseases that reach epidemic proportions on a regular basis. Diseases such as measles, meningitis and diarrhoea - which pose minimal public health risks in any peaceful country - kill thousands of Somalis. Maternal mortality has reached abysmal proportions: one of every seven pregnant Somali women dies in childbirth. At the same time, different parts of the country are faced with hunger and large numbers of acutely malnourished children. MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) is a medical relief organization that has been working in Somalia for almost fifteen years. Given our experience, we urge the international community not to focus only on their direct short-term interests. If foreign powers now look to Somalia as a new stage for political or military intervention, then the human face of Somalia must not be ignored: the thousands of men, women and children for whom life and health remain an unachievable goal.