A clash over food aid in Somalia led to the death of fourteen civilians on Friday, June 9th. According to the Associated Press (AP), soldiers reportedly attempted to steal sacks of food intended for refugees in the city of Baidoa. The capital of the southwestern Bay region, Baidoa is the site of a large aid distribution centre that provides refugees with the resources they need to survive Somalia’s devastating conditions. Rebel soldiers were ultimately stopped by additional soldiers guarding the centre, but not before fourteen people lost their lives. Twenty others are also facing injuries as a result of the clash, many of whom are currently in treatment for critical conditions.
This conflict occurred during a period of crisis in Somalia. The United Nations reports that Somalia is among four major countries that are presently facing disastrous drought and famine conditions. It is joined by Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, all of which are engulfed in the worst humanitarian disaster in more than 70 years. Refugees of these nations flood into Baidoa and other Somalian cities in pursuit of basic aid and local support, often overwhelming the agencies that operate there.
Somalia also struggles with issues that extend beyond its drought and famine conditions. The country’s national security is regularly threatened due to an ongoing civil war that grew out of resistance to the Siad Barre regime in the 1980s. The Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab, which is allied to al-Qaeda, has also contributed to the instability of recent years. This militant group regularly targets civilians and civilian structure in an attempt to gain control over territory in Somalia. The fundamentalists ultimately aspire to establish a society based on a rigid interpretation of Shariah law.
President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed, popularly known as ‘Farmajo’ has claimed that he “will spare no effort to realize the promise of [his] campaign which was to fight Somalia’s three raging enemies: terrorism, corruption, and poverty.” A member of the Tayo party, Farmajo’s campaign platform focused heavily on resolving conflict and delivering services to Somalia’s general population in need. To bring these goals to fruition, political experts argue that Farmajo needs to end government corruption and to promote reconciliation between federal states. They believe that Farmajo’s government could work to resolve conflicts over territory and resources by implementing these strategies.
Nonetheless, the drought and famine crises remain at the forefront of Somalia’s problem with instability. According to the World Health Organization, Somalia is directly at risk of its third famine in approximately 25 years, and the United Nation reports that the food and water deficit in this region has negatively impacted the lives of more than 6.2 million people. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Baidoa has become a host city for more than 142,000 refugees seeking assistance. Additionally, more than half a million people have been internally displaced across the country, the majority of which are children and teens.
The extreme demand for assistance has placed intense pressure on humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to those most in need. However, as was highlighted by this recent clash in Baidoa, there are often barriers to successfully provide that assistance. The violent conflict that injured twenty and took the lives of fourteen civilians last week is indicative of the intensity of this devastating situation.
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