People that have fled the recent fighting in Somalia seek refuge at 'May 15th' IDP camp, Burao (Burco), Somaliland. Credit: David Levene/Oxfam
Oxfam International is providing vital assistance to more than half a million vulnerable people

Crisis situation in Somalia – December 2008

“Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an aid worker.”

There is a humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Somalia. Almost half of the country’s population – or 3.25 million people – are now in need of emergency aid.  This represents a 77% increase since the start of 2008.

Aid agencies are able to provide only a fraction of the assistance needed by the millions of people in crisis inside Somalia because of extreme violence and the increasing targeting of aid workers. More than 30 aid workers were killed in 2008 while trying to carry out their work in Somalia.

All parties to the conflict have been accused of committing war crimes in Somalia – and it is ordinary civilians who continue to bear the brunt of these atrocities. All parties to the conflict must respect international humanitarian law and stop the killing of innocent civilians immediately.

There are four main factors driving the humanitarian crisis in Somalia:

  • Drought and flooding:  In Central Somalia, a severe drought is deepening and spreading and has led to below normal harvests for many years as many crucial crops have failed to grow. This has left many rural communities without the livelihoods upon which they depend. In Southern Somalia, there has been flooding along the two main rivers causing many people to have to flee their homes and ruining the crops they had planted.
  • Hyperinflation:  Food and non-food prices in Somalia are at record high levels – leaving many urban and rural communities struggling to buy the basic items they need for survival like food, water and shelter. Some items have increased in price by as much as 1600% while the poorest of the poor in Mogadishu are surviving on as little as $1.70 a month.
  • Insecurity: The UN has described the current level of insecurity in Somalia as the worst the country has seen since the early 1990s. Ordinary Somalis continue to be caught in the crossfire as warring parties fight for control of strategic areas. Since the beginning of 2008, it is estimated that at least 9,000 civilians have died as a result of the war in Somalia. All parties to the conflict have been accused of committing war crimes. 
  • Severely limited access:  Access by aid agencies like Oxfam International to those in desperate need is severely limited because of extreme insecurity and increasing attacks on aid workers. Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an aid worker; this year alone, more that 30 aid workers have been killed in Somalia (most of them Somali) and more than 20 have been abducted. Currently, agencies like Oxfam International are doing what they can, but not what they want, in their attempts to tackle the humanitarian crisis that is spiraling out of control.

Oxfam is there

Despite these difficulties, Oxfam International is working with local Somali partner organizations to provide vital assistance to more than half a million vulnerable people across Somalia.

Hot meals to vulnerable people in Mogadishu

Working with several partners, Oxfam International supports a ‘wet-feeding’ program in Mogadishu that provides over 60,000 hot meals a day to people left in Somalia’s capital. In just under one year, the program has provided over 14 million meals to those left in the city – the poorest of the poor who do not have the means to flee the daily violence.

Providing water and sanitation services to one of the largest displaced people’s camps in Africa

We are supporting the provision of water to 200,000 displaced people living in dire conditions in Afgooye, just outside of the capital Mogadishu. Working with local partners, Oxfam has assisted the local community with the provision of safe drinking water, constructed latrines and educated the local community about safe hygiene. 

Rebuilding livelihoods in central Somalia

In central Somalia, Oxfam has been working with two local partners to rebuild the livelihoods of vulnerable people who have lost everything as a result of the crisis in their country. Oxfam has been providing people with tools and seeds to support agricultural work and providing cash relief to the most vulnerable people including women and children.

Working in drought affected areas in Somaliland

Oxfam has worked with 70,000 pastoralists in 30 pastoral communities to address the fundamental causes of pastoral poverty and vulnerability in Somaliland. We are working with pastoral communities to alleviate some of the practical problems that they face such as a lack of water, healthcare and education.

Building the capacity of Somali NGOs

Oxfam invests in a unique project training local NGOs across Somalia to be able to respond to threats to their communities including drought, conflict/violence and flooding. Oxfam has trained 25 local Somali organizations in a wide range of skills in emergencies including global standards in emergency response, early warning systems, conflict sensitivity, gender awareness, lobbying and media.