July 26 2011

Audio interview: "The current situation in Somalia is terrible"

26/07/2011 - In an interview Ahmed Mohamed, director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia, talks about the famine in the country and the measures taken by the organisation. The current situation is "very, very terrible".

Ahmed Mohamed
Ahmed Mohamed, director SOS Children's Villages Somalia - Photo: SOS Archives
According to United Nations not the whole of Somalia is famine-stricken, but two regions in Southern Somalia are facing a drought. The UN then declared a famine in these two regions.

United Nations have declared famine

"By declaring famine,'" Ahmed Mohamed, director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia explains, "the United Nations have identified problems like acute malnutrition rate, which in our case has exceeded 30 per cent. In some places it seems to be 50 per cent." Another characteristic the UN use to declare famine is when two people per every 10,000 die per day. According to the reports by the UN, Somalia has exceeded this number. Six people out of 10,000 are dying every day of which most are children under the age of five. Additionally, people are not able to access food, shelter and water. In the case of Somalia this meant that people are moving to the neighbouring countries Kenya and Ethiopia. It is estimated that in the last three months alone 9,000 families moved into Mogadishu.

SOS Children's Villages’ response to the famine in Somalia

SOS Children's Villages has been in Somalia since 1985 running an SOS Children's Village, an SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, the SOS Kindergarten, the SOS Medical Centre, and SOS Vocational Training Centre. “With the support of the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid, also called ECHO”, Mohamed explains, “we have been assisting people by providing medical services to about 120,000 beneficiaries every year, and ECHO has been funding this project more than 10 years.”

Field clinic in Baidoa
Refugees in the camp in Baidoa - Photo: SOS Archives
During the current crisis, SOS Children's Villages Somalia rapidly assesses the drought-affected population in three locations: Mogadishu, Baidoa and one in the Lower Shabeellaha region. People need shelter, clean water, food and health services. Mohamed: “We can maybe intervene by offering our medical services, because we have a very huge medical facility in Mogadishu and the expertise in doing this even in an Internally-displaced people camp. […] So we said: 'Let us be very quick and set up a health post in one of the biggest IDP camps in Mogadishu'.” SOS Children’s Villages Somalia has been running this health post since July 24th and has already been able to assist about 600 people, mainly children and women.

Challenges in getting aid to the population

Getting aid to the population, though, is challenging due to insecurity. But it is a common one. One that SOS Children’s Villages Somalia has always been dealing with. “Another challenge we are facing”, Mohamed says, “is about priorities”. Within two months, the staff realised that thousands of families are coming into Mogadishu. “They don't have anything, they are only able to carry their children or very few household items. So, now, if you're going to an Internally-displaced people camp and you see the need there … now, to even prioritise those needs, is very, very difficult.” Due to the large number of aid organisations, co-ordination is also challenging. 

Working with other relief organisations

Having been in Somalia for the last 28 years, SOS Children's Villages has been playing a big role in co-ordinating its activities with its partners like the UN organisations or the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and other international agencies. “So we made sure that we had all those partnerships or co-operations with other organisations.”

Next steps of SOS Children's Villages 

Malnourished child
Malnourished child - Photo: SOS Archives
SOS Children’s Villages is setting up more health posts. “We want to make sure that these three health posts are operational and are helping people.” Children below the age of five are severely affected by malnutrition. Therefore SOS Children’s Villages wants to open two out-patient therapeutic programmes, one in Mogadishu and one in Baidoa, “where we can reach out to about 1,000 children in each location who are severely malnourished.” The organisation is also thinking about “scaling up our stabilisation centre”, where severely malnourished children with medical complications are admitted to and fed properly, at the same time treating the medical complications they have.

Mohamed: “Also, we're thinking in terms of general food distribution to families affected by the drought”. SOS Children’s Villages is therefore thinking about giving out food vouchers through which families can, once every month, get a package of different items of a food ration. 

“So, those are now the areas we are thinking about, where we can really play a big role and then, assist the needy people.”