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Displaced people wait for water at a camp outside of Mogadishu, Somalia. Courtesy of SAACID

Displaced people wait for water at a camp outside of Mogadishu, Somalia. Courtesy of SAACID

As Somalia turmoil increases, humanitarian work continues

Cathryn Clinton
December 22, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Turmoil in Somalia escalated in the last year due to increased political insecurity, drought, flooding, and the rising prospect of famine. Somalia is considered by the United Nations to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has supported SAACID, a Somali women's organization, for more than a decade. MCC has provided water, education and financing for women to start their own micro businesses.

MCC's Global Family Education Sponsorship program supports SAACID in running schools in the capital, Mogadishu, and Adale.

In December 2006, Ethiopia, aided by the United States, invaded Somalia and overthrew the government. Since then fighting between Ethiopian troops, Islamist insurgents, Somali forces and clan militias have continued.

Problems with food importing and distribution have increased due to pirate activity which requires that ships importing food to Somalia have naval protection, and because some areas of the war-torn country are inaccessible to aid organizations.

The flood of people from Mogadishu grows daily. International relief organizations estimate the number of internally displaced persons to be more than 1.1 million, with further estimates of 3.2 million people, one third of the population, in need of humanitarian aid.

According to Raha Janaqow, director of SAACID, the number of temporary camps for displaced persons continues to grow. Before this recent influx, SAACID was feeding more than 80,000 people. In 2007, MCC provided non-food items such as gerry cans and cooking pots to aid in the distribution of food in the soup kitchens that SAACID runs in these camps.

SAACID also is distributing dry food. It is providing maize, sorghum, oil and beans to each family in the camps.

So far, Janaqow said, SAACID has been able to meet the increased need for clean water. MCC provided five 5,000-gallon portable water tanks in the last two years for access to potable water.

For many it is an emergency schooling situation, but this hasn't diminished the Somali people's high value for education. SAACID is educating in the camps using tents for schools. There hasn't been public education in Somalia since 1991.

Janaqow notes that there are negotiations in Djibouti to address the situation." For the last eight years, there is a lot of talking," she says, "but nothing happens."

With the political situation rapidly deteriorating, SAACID continues its work. Even though peace seems distant Janaqow says, "We still have hope." SAACID's belief in a war-free Somalia with children empowered by education and vibrant citizens working in a productive society keeps them operating in the midst of chaos.