Remittances to Somalia survive another day in the UK | 

Somali activists on the "Boris bikes."
Somali activists on the “Boris bikes” in London.
Oxfam GB

Somali campaigners rode through the city of London last month on the Barclays bank-sponsored “Boris bikes” to protest the bank’s decision to cease its cash transfer work in Somalia. The bank did not change its mind, but the campaigners won an important victory this week.

Barclays bank’s plan to cut the legs from the remittance flow in Somalia was temporarily halted by a court injunction.

Dahabshiil, an Emirati cash transfer company, is challenging the decision by Barclays to cut off remittances in response to concerns over money laundering and the funding of terrorists. Supporters of the transfers, including Dahabsiil, point out that the overwhelming majority of the money is sent to support individuals and families. The estimated $1.3 billion that is sent in the form of remittances to Somalia has a major economic impact on the country.

Somalis living abroad who send money home to Somalia will continue to do so until the UK high court finishes hearing the case against Barclays. Continue reading

Why remittances are a big deal for Somalia | 

Daniel Gerstle

Note: There will be a local public forum on this issue tonight, 6 pm, sponsored by Oxfam and the local Somali Youth & Family Club, at the Pine Ridge Apartments complex, 3725 South 180th Street, SeaTac. 

Somali migrants send an estimated $1.3 billion back home each year. The $215 million that Somalis living in the US send back to Somalia is nearly as much as the $242 million that the US provides in aid to Somalia. Money sent as remittances accounts for 60% of the average Somali’s income.

Recent developments are making it harder than ever for Somalis to send and receive money. The UK-based Barclays bank recently imposed severe restrictions by cutting off partnerships with 250 remittance agencies. Concerns about the security of money and not knowing where it was being spent were cited as reasons for the change.

The money sent to Somalia by individuals is a vital source of income for many people living in the country. Oxfam credits remittances for helping to reduce the negative impacts of the 2011 drought. Money transfer operators (MTOs) are the only source of banking for some Somalis, but the operators depend on partnerships with foreign banks. When banks suddenly end partnerships, people are cut off from the money they need.
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Doctors Without Borders pulls out of Somalia after 22 years | 

Somalia - MSF distributes ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to families with young children.
Somalia – MSF distributes ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to families with young children.

The France-based medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced it was leaving Somalia after 22 years due to security concerns. The organization that provides crucial health relief in conflict settings has remained in Somalia through some of the most violent stretches. The announcement comes as a surprise and a signal that Somalia’s improvements may be more tenuous than previously reported.

Two MSF staff were killed in December of 2011 while working on Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu. Another pair of staff were released last month after being held for 21 months in south central Somalia after they were kidnapped from Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp. MSF says the two incidents highlight only a part of the challenges it has faced in Somalia since 1991. Attacks on MSF staff, ambulances and medical clinics have led to an additional 14 deaths.

Medical programs in Mogadishu, its suburbs and in other parts of Somalia will be closed. MSF says its 1,500 strong staff provided more than 624,000 medical consultations, admitted 41,100 patients to hospitals, cared for 30,090 malnourished children, vaccinated 58,620 people, and delivered 7,300 babies in 2012. The cessation of MSF’s work in Somalia will have an immediate impact on Somalis.
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From smallpox victim to polio eradication advocate | 

Ali Maow Maalin
Ali Maow Maalin

Ali Maow Maalin of Somalia died suddenly at the age of 59 last week. He was the last person infected with smallpox in the world.

What he did with his life after the infection is what makes Maalin’s story truly remarkable. He took his experience and set his sights on eradicating polio.

Maalin refused the smallpox vaccine when he was younger because he feared needles. Refusing the vaccine is why he contracted smallpox while driving to a clinic with an infected family. He explained to the Boston Globe’s John Donnelly in 2006:

”I was scared of being vaccinated then. It looked like the shot hurt,” said Mo’allim, 48, who was sick for 50 days with smallpox but recovered completely. ”Now when I meet parents who refuse to give their children the polio vaccine, I tell them my story. I tell them how important these vaccines are. I tell them not to do something foolish like me.”

“He would always say, ‘I’m the last smallpox case in the world. I want to help ensure my country will not be last in stopping polio,’ ” Dr. Debesay Mulugeta, who leads polio eradication efforts in Somalia, said the the NPR Shots Blog.
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US Welcomes Somalia’s New President | 

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Two decades since the embarrassing Black Hawk Down incident, the United States is opening a new chapter with Somalia.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the newly elected leader of Somalia, met with Obama and Clinton in separate meetings late last week. The meeting was accompanied by official U.S. recognition of the government in Somalia — the first time since 1991.

“The people and leaders of Somalia have fought and sacrificed to bring greater stability, security, and peace to their nation,” Secretary of State Clinton said at the event.

President Obama used his time with President Mohamud to congratulate the leader on his September electoral victory, and for the major security gains Somalia has made over the past year by beating back the al Shabaab militants. Continue reading

Interactive: How the world responded in 2011 to Somalia’s famine | 

The Guardian has produced an excellent interactive analysis of how, and why, the international community responded to the famine in Somalia in 2011:

The Guardian

Some conclusions:

Despite sophisticated early warning systems to help predict – and, in theory, prevent – the escalation of severe food crises, it seems it is still the declaration of famine that prompts action.

More than 70% of funding and almost 90% of mainstream US and UK media coverage (based on our analysis of six major news outlets) came after the formal declaration of famine on 20 July 2011. Public engagement, estimated by Google searches and Twitter mentions, followed a similar trend.

Somalia: Famine, death and suffering continues | 

The deadly, tragic situation in Somalia persists.

As the ONE Campaign notes in an overview Update on Horn of Africa:

Four million people remain food insecure in Somalia and 250,000 in Southern Somalia continue to face famine conditions. These conditions are expected to persist at least through December 2011 and depending on the favorability of rains in spring 2012, could be prolonged.

Also featured by ONE is this excellent Al Jazeera Fault Lines documentary describing the current situation:

Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times is screaming at you | 


Malnourished children in Somalia

To pay attention to the massive catastrophe still unfolding in the Horn of Africa!

Traditionally, at least within the mainstream media, journalists are supposed to behave as if they are neutral observers. It’s a crock, of course, since we’re real people full of all sorts of opinions, emotions and thoughts. The best we can do is be fair and try to present all sides.

Jeffrey Gettleman covers the famine in East Africa, mostly Somalia, for the New York Times. He does an excellent job.

Here’s his latest article, Somalia Agony Tests the Limit of AID.

I think this story is also testing the limits of Gettleman — to maintain (the pretense of?) objectivity. It’s not labeled “analysis,” but you can feel his anguish throughout. He is shocked by the death and misery, outraged at how little attention and money this famine is getting relative to the human toll it is taking:

My job is to seek out the suffering and write about it and to analyze the causes and especially the response, which has been woefully inadequate by all accounts, though not totally hopeless.

Gettleman starts his story with a visit to a hospital, where five children died during his visit. He reports ‘objectively’ about other deaths and describes how Islamist rebels have made a terrible situation worse. He talks about the history of instability in Somalia. Gettleman gives all the facts you might need to shrug your shoulders and say it’s too bad but what can I do? Here’s what:

But support — meaning dollars — has been frustratingly scant. While many more lives are at stake in Somalia’s crisis, other recent disasters pulled in far more money. For instance, Save the Children U.S. has raised a little more than $5 million in private donations for the Horn of Africa crisis, which includes Somalia and the drought-inflicted areas of Kenya and Ethiopia. That contrasts with what Save the Children raised in 2004 for the Indonesian tsunami ($55.4 million) or the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 ($28.2 million) or even the earthquake in Japan earlier this year ($22.8 million) — and Japan is a rich country.

Gettleman is clearly outraged, at what he’s seeing, at the local politics that contributes to this tragedy and at the international community’s “inadequate” response to this stunning loss of life.

It’s good journalism, but mostly because it’s not at all objective or neutral. It’s real.

One man reached out and jerked my arm. “Look!” he said, pointing to a small bundle in the corner of his tent. I peered in. It was the corpse of his 2-year-old son, Suleiman, who had just died….

It is important to remember that however plagued Somalia is, however routine conflict, drought and disease have become, however many Somalis have already needlessly died, Somalis are not somehow wired differently from the rest of us. They are not numb to suffering. They are not grief-proof. I’ll never forget the expression on Mr. Kufow’s face as he stumbled out of Benadir Hospital into the penetrating sunshine with his lifeless little girl in his arms. He may not have been weeping openly. But he looked as if he could barely breathe.