Sept. 3, 2011
By Tracy McVeigh
The head of an international medical charity has called on aid agencies to stop presenting a misleading picture of the famine in Somalia and admit that helping the worst-affected people is almost impossible.
The international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Dr Unni Karunakara, returned from Somalia last week and said that, even though there was chronic malnutrition and drought across east Africa, hardly any agencies were able to work inside war-torn Somalia, where the picture was “profoundly distressing”. He condemned other organisations and the media for “glossing over” the reality in order to convince people that simply giving money for food was the answer.
According to Karunakara, agencies have been able to provide medical and nutritional care for tens of thousands in camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, which have been receiving huge numbers of refugees from Somalia. But trying to access those in the “epicentre” of the disaster has been slow and difficult. “We may have to live with the reality that we may never be able to reach the communities most in need of help,” he said.
Karunakara said that the use of phrases such as “famine in the Horn of Africa” or “worst drought in 60 years” obscured the “man-made” factors that had created the crisis and wrongly implied that the solution was simply to find the money to ship enough food to the region.
He described Mogadishu, the Somali capital, as dotted with plastic sheets supported by twigs, sheltering groups of weak and starving people who had walked in from the worst-affected areas in southern and central Somalia. “I met a woman who had left her home with her husband and seven children to walk to Mogadishu and had arrived after five days with only four children,” he said.
“MSF is constantly being forced to make tough choices in deploying or expanding our activities, in sticking to our principles of neutrality with the daily realities of people going without healthcare, without food. Our staff face being shot. But glossing over the man-made causes of hunger and starvation in the region and the great difficulties in addressing them will not help resolve the crisis. Aid agencies are being impeded in the area.
“MSF has been working in Somalia for 20 years, and we know that if we are struggling then others will not be able to work at all. The reality on the ground is that there are serious difficulties that affect our abilities to respond to need.”
Full Article Here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/sep/03/charity-aid-groups-misleading-somalia