The humanitarian crisis in Somalia

Abukar Dahir Osman, permanent representative to the United Nations

By Halimah Begum

The country of Somalia has been going through a crisis for many years, dealing with issues regarding state protection and conflict. What does this mean for Somalian people?

Somalis have had to deal with a corrupt government for many years. Such corruption has arisen in various governmental bodies and state institutions, like the judiciary, police, public service, legislation, civil society and many more. It is this corruption which is the root cause of the issues arising in the country, hence making Somalia’s humanitarian crisis one of the most complex.

Islamic Groups in Somalia

Al-Shabab, translating to ‘The Youth’ in Arabic, is a youth-led Islamic militant group whose roots lie in the Union of Islamic Courts, a now-defunct radical group once based in the capital Mogadishu. Having instated Sharia Law in the areas under their control, they advocate the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam, while most Somalis belong to a different denomination, Sufi.

They are banned in both the US and the UK.

Freedom of speech and the law

Journalists and protesters in Somalia are denied their rights on freedom of expression. In Puntland and Jubaland, there have been many cases of arbitrary arrest, with ‘defendants’ left without access to legal support and family members. Somali culture embraces freedom of expression, so why are the Government denying and punishing those who exercise this right?

A report released by UNSOM in 2018 titled The precarious enjoyment of freedom of expression in Somalia found that there was a 70% increase in the number of people arrested and detained on charges relating to freedom of expression. False information is the accusation put forward in most instances, but is the information they share false? Or, rather, is it information that simply does not fit the controversial agenda of the authorities?

The health crisis

Furthermore, Somalia is experiencing a public health crisis which is almost unparalleled across the globe. COVID-19 has had a horrific hit on Somalia’s population, and the lack of health resources has not helped the situation. Civil war and instability within the country has impacted medical services highly. Somalia’s medical facilities can be improved with well trained professionals and adequate healthcare.

70% of Somalia’s population under the age of 30, are suffering from many challenges in social, economic, and political areas. This is a situation that has been ongoing for decades. Save The Children work closely to help combat the situation. Somalia’s poverty crisis leads to other problems like a lack of nutrition, maternal mortality and many more.

Women and children

Somalia has been ranked as one of the worst places to be a child in the world. Civil conflict and natural disasters in Somalia have resulted in mass poverty, alongside the lack of active central government.

Hawo Taako, a Somali writer who experienced life in a refugee camp, has written on how sexual violence has become endemic in such places. She has claimed that refugee camps in Somalia are proving to be rather dangerous, with many refugees being subject to human trafficking and sex trafficking. Many charities are taking advantage and abusing those in refugee camps, the UN Peacekeeping Army being one of them. This organisation has repeatedly been involved with issues of such nature.

The exact number of Somali women, children and men who are victims of sexual abuse, remains unknown due to many reasons. Failure to report such instances being one of them. The war in Somalia has aided the rising cases of rape.