Somalis stuck between rock and hard place: UN

February 28th, 2009 - 1:00 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, Feb 27 (DPA) The UN refugee agency said Friday that about 40,000 displaced Somalis have returned to the war ravaged capital Mogadishu as the areas they sought refuge had become too violent and were being hit by drought.
“Somalis are between a rock and a hard place,” said William Spindler, a spokesman for UNHCR.

The UN warned that it was “not encouraging returns to Mogadishu at this juncture, as the security situation is volatile and the conditions are certainly not conducive”.

The areas of Mogadishu to which they are returning have little or no basic services.

All countries have closed their borders to Somalia, aid groups said, with only Yemen excepting refugees, though the people would have to take perilous boat ride to get there and many do not survive. Several thousand still sneak into Kenya each week.

Jean-Sebastien Matte, an expert on Somalia with Medicins Sans Frontier (MSF), said that very few international aid workers, mostly from the Red Cross and his organisation, were present in the shattered east African nation due to the lack of security.

Last year, three MSF aid workers were killed in Somalia, forcing the group to slim down its physical presence in the country, though over 1,000 locals work directly or indirectly for the organization and the medical programmes it supports.

Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe, a Somalia doctor, and her daughter Deqa Mohamed Abdi, a surgeon, told reporters in Geneva that the medical system in the country was collapsed and they were in dire need of drugs and medical equipment, including diagnostic equipment and incubators for newborns.

“It is very difficult to watch babies die slowly because we have no incubator,” Deqa said.

Hawa, who started a small clinic in 1983 in one room, which has since grown into a hospital, blamed the international community for abandoning her country, saying that she has knocked on the door of major aid agencies but received little assistance.

Hawa has set up small scale job creation programme but said she lacks funds to expand it further.

“I can’t enlarge the fishing groups, I can’t enlarge the farming groups. I need investments,” she said, noting that the war in Somalia was “between the hungry man and the angry man”.

“The problems come from within the society,” the doctor explained, adding that the solutions would also have to be Somali, rejecting the idea that international peacekeepers would help without a homegrown political answer to the problems which have kept a brutal civil war going for over 19 years.

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