Three years after Somali famine, new hunger crisis looms

Fri Sep 19, 2014 3:08pm EDT
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By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - When African peacekeepers and Somali troops launched an offensive against Islamist militants in Somalia's small seaside town of Marka, Rukia Nur and her 10 children joined the stream of thousands who have fled to the capital in past months.

They now make their home in a sprawling camp in Mogadishu's outskirts - a place at the center of a growing hunger crisis three years after Somalia's devastating 2011 famine.

The United Nations said this month more than a million people in this war-ravaged country were struggling to meet daily nutritional needs. The roughly 130,000 people displaced from their homes this year alone are bearing the brunt of the crisis.

"Life is terrible. We are hungry," said Nur, amidst the dusty streets and shabby shelters where her family lives without basic amenities. "There are no toilets here. We have to bury children' faeces in the sand like cats."

The exodus of people from their homes and poor rainfall is pushing Somalia toward a new crisis, hurting the government's bid to establish order after two decades of chaos and conflict.

It also highlights the challenges facing the 22,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force and the Somali army, which has driven al Shabaab rebels from more towns but struggled to protect supply lines from guerrilla attacks, so markets are left bare and inhabitants like Nur have little choice but to flee.

Marka, a sloping, whitewashed Indian Ocean town south of the capital, has been battered by years of fighting between al Shabaab and their rivals. In better times, Nur had supported her family by selling fire wood.

Now, having sold all her belongings when she fled, she relies on handouts.   Continued...

Somali government soldiers walk near the scene of a suicide car bomb explosion targeting peacekeeping troops in a convoy outside the capital Mogadishu September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Feisal Omar