MOGADISHU, Somalia — The Shabab Islamist insurgent group, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory.

A malnourished child at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. More than 500,000 Somali children are verging on starvation.

The group is widely blamed for causing a famine in Somalia by forcing out many Western aid organizations, depriving drought victims of desperately needed food. The situation is growing bleaker by the day, with tens of thousands of Somalis already dead and more than 500,000 children on the brink of starvation.

Every morning, emaciated parents with emaciated children stagger into Banadir Hospital, a shell of a building with floors that stink of diesel fuel because that is all the nurses have to fight off the flies. Babies are dying because of the lack of equipment and medicine. Some get hooked up to adult-size intravenous drips — pediatric versions are hard to find — and their compromised bodies cannot handle the volume of fluid.

Most parents do not have money for medicine, so entire families sit on old-fashioned cholera beds, with basketball-size holes cut out of the middle, taking turns going to the bathroom as diarrhea streams out of them.

“This is worse than 1992,” said Dr. Lul Mohamed, Banadir’s head of pediatrics, referring to Somalia’s last famine. “Back then, at least we had some help.”

Aid groups are trying to scale up their operations, and the United Nations has begun airlifting emergency food. But many seasoned aid officials are speaking in grim tones because one of Africa’s worst humanitarian disasters in decades has struck one of the most inaccessible countries on earth. Somalia, especially the southern third where the famine is, has been considered a no-go zone for years, a lawless caldron that has claimed the lives of dozens of aid workers, peacekeepers and American soldiers, going back to the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993, spelling a legacy that has scared off many international organizations.

“If this were Haiti, we would have dozens of people on the ground by now,” said Eric James, an official with the American Refugee Committee, a private aid organization.

But Somalia is considered more dangerous and anarchic than Haiti, Iraq or even Afghanistan, and the American Refugee Committee, like other aid groups, is struggling to get trained personnel here.

“It is safe to say that many people are going to die as a result of little or no access,” Mr. James said.

This leaves millions of famished Somalis with two choices, aside from fleeing the country to neighboring Kenya or Ethiopia, where there is more assistance. They can beg for help from a weak and divided transitional government in Mogadishu, the capital. Just the other day there was a shootout between government forces at the gates of the presidential palace. “Things happen,” was the response of Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Somalia’s new prime minister.

Or they can remain in territory controlled by the Shabab, who have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and have tried to rid their areas of anything Western — Western music, Western dress, even Western aid groups during a time of famine.

Much of the Horn of Africa, which includes Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, has been struck this summer by one of the worst droughts in 60 years. But two Shabab-controlled parts of southern Somalia are the only areas where the United Nations has declared a famine, using scientific criteria of death and malnutrition rates.

People from those areas who were interviewed in Mogadishu say Shabab fighters are blocking rivers to steal water from impoverished villagers and divert it to commercial farmers who pay them taxes. The Shabab are intercepting displaced people who are trying to reach Mogadishu and forcing them to stay in a Shabab-run camp about 25 miles outside the city. The camp now holds several thousand people and receives only a trickle of food.

“I was taken off a bus and put here,” said a woman at the camp who asked not to be identified.

Several drought victims who have succeeded in making it to Mogadishu said that the Shabab were threatening to kill anyone who left their areas, either for refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, or for government zones in Somalia, and that the only way out was to sneak away at night and avoid the main roads.

A few years ago, the Shabab began banning immunizations, deeming them a Western plot to kill Somali children. Now countless unvaccinated children are dying from measles and cholera as tens of thousands of malnourished, immunity-suppressed people flee the drought areas and pack into filthy, crowded camps.

The other day, Kufow Ali Abdi, a destitute herder who lost all his cattle, trudged out of Banadir Hospital, gently carrying a small package in his arms wrapped in blue cloth. It looked almost like a swaddled newborn but it was the opposite. It was the body of his 3-year-old daughter, Kadija, who had just succumbed to measles.

“I just hope they can save the others,” he said, referring to his two remaining children, down to skin and bone.

The magnitude of suffering could shift the political landscape, which has been dominated by chaos since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew the central government and then tore apart the country. The Transitional Federal Government — the 15th attempt at a government — is trying to assert itself and beat back the Shabab, and the famine and attendant relief effort could mean an enormous opportunity.

“It could be a face-lift for them, an opportunity to deliver services and show they are committed,” said Sheik Abdulkadir, a militia leader. “But if a lot of people die here, people will say it’s the government’s fault.”

The famine could affect the Shabab as well, deepening the fissures in their organization. Shabab leaders are now beginning to cut their own deals in the face of mass starvation. Unicef recently delivered a planeload of food and medicine to Baidoa, a Shabab stronghold. In Xarardheere, another Shabab-controlled town and a notorious pirate den, a Shabab commander said in an interview on Saturday that he would welcome Western aid organizations despite the anti-Western policies imposed by his leadership, which has been hit by the deaths of several prominent figures recently.

Sheik Yoonis, a Shabab spokesman, said in an e-mail that the declaration of a famine was “an exaggeration.” He said that Shabab fighters were not imprisoning people in the camp, but that the people were attracted to it by “this sense of serenity and security.” He also denied that the Shabab were diverting river water or scaring away aid agencies.

Still, many aid organizations are reluctant to venture into Shabab areas because of the obvious dangers — the Shabab have killed dozens of aid workers — and because of American government restrictions. In 2008, the State Department declared the Shabab a terrorist group, making it a crime to provide material assistance to them. Aid officials say the restrictions have had a chilling effect because it is nearly impossible to guarantee that the Shabab will not skim off some of the aid delivered in their areas.

Even United Nations contractors have been accused of siphoning food aid, resulting in extensive investigations and cuts in life-saving assistance.

Western aid agencies are now trying to work through Islamic and local organizations as much as possible, but the Somali partners do not usually have as much technical expertise. And heavy fighting has erupted in Mogadishu again, making it dangerous even for Somali aid workers.

“Somalia is one of the most complicated places in the world to deliver aid, more complicated than Afghanistan,” said Stefano Porretti, who heads the World Food Progam’s efforts in Somalia and recently worked in Afghanistan.

Mohammed Ibrahim contributed reporting.

PUBLICADO EL 1/08/2011

5 comentarios:

rh dijo...

Quedo conmocionado. Aun teniendo que utilizar un traductor para leer el artículo. Es sobrecogedor. Es el horror. Es también un escalón más avanzado del absurdo humano, de la estupidez cruel, y si lo piensas bien, tan sólo unos pasos más allá de los actos de maldad que contienen nuestros confortables mundos. ¿Cómo decir lo correcto? ¿Cómo intentar aproximarse? ¿De dónde saco las palabras? Voy a robar otras entonces. Voy a robarlas a "El Corazón de las tinieblas" y espero que Conrad no me lo reproche jamás:

«Marchas a través de los bosques con la sensación de que el salvajismo, el salvajismo extremo, lo rodea..., toda esa vida misteriosa y primitiva que se agita en el bosque, en las selvas, en el corazón del hombre salvaje. No hay iniciación para tales misterios. Se ha de vivir en medio de lo que no comprendes y al tiempo detestas. Y hay en todo ello una fascinación: la fascinación de lo abominable...».

«...La alegre danza de la muerte y el comercio continuaba desenvolviéndose en una atmósfera tranquila y terrenal, como en una catacumba ardiente ... Era como un fatigoso peregrinar en medio de visiones de pesadilla...»

«...Morían lentamente..., eso estaba claro. No eran enemigos, no eran criminales, no eran nada terrenal, sólo sombras negras de enfermedad y agotamiento, que yacían confusamente en la tiniebla verdosa...»

«...Después de todo, también yo era una parte de la gran causa, de aquellos elevados y justos procedimientos».

¿Cuánto de ellos somos nosotros mismos? ¿Cuánto de las víctimas y los moribundos, de los niños? ¿Y cuánto de los verdugos, de los fanáticos, de los religiosos? ¿Cuánto de las armas y las alambradas y del hedor de la miseria humana? ¿Cuánto nos es ajeno y cuánto es propio?

"Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try..." (J.Lennon)

Una mirada perdida.



Nó...! Permanecer y transcurrir
no es es perdurar, no es existir,
ni honrar la vida!
Hay tantas maneras de no ser
tanta conciencia sin saber,
Merecer la vida, no es callar y consentir
tantas injusticias repetidas...
Es una virtud, es dignidad
y es la actitud de identidad
más difinida!
Eso de durar y transcurrir
no nos dá derecho a presumir,
porque no es lo mismo que vivir
honrar la vida!

Nó...! Permanecer y transcurrir
no siempre quiere sugerir
honrar la vida!
Hay tanta pequeña vanidad
en nuestra tonta humanidad
Merecer la vida es erguirse vertical
más allá del mal, de las caídas...
Es igual que darle a la verdad
y a nuestra propia libertad
la bienvenida!
Eso de durar y transcurrir
no nos da derecho a presumir
porque no es lo mismo que vivir
honrar la vida!
(Eladia Blazquez)

rh dijo...

Tengo dos hijos (chico y chica) y se puede decir que son guapos. Algunas veces les dije que presumir de ser guapo es la mayor de las estupideces porque seguramente es el mérito menos nuestro y por ello, el menor de los méritos. Eso nos viene dado, si es que nos viene dado, regalado, y por tanto, es ridículo presumir de ello.
La letra de esa canción dice eso pero de todo. Nada menos. Y así lo creo. Y muchas veces pienso en serio que, enceguecido en la pequeña vanidad de lo cotidiano, empequeñecido por el deambular ordinario del mundo occidental de los países cómodos e hipócritas, no hago todo lo que debo y que, por tanto, no honro la vida como debo.
Sin embargo, a pesar de mis errores, y a pesar de mis límites, que son tantos y ya tan evidentes, aspiro, como siempre he hecho, a reconocerme en honestidad, aun a riesgo de perder cosas materiales.
Supongo que eso puede ser una pequeña dosis de dignidad.
Al menos, eso espero.

Fat man lookin' in a blade of steel
Thin man lookin' at his last meal
Hollow man lookin' in a cottonfield
For dignity

"Wise man lookin' in a blade of grass
Young man lookin' in the shadows that pass
Poor man lookin' through painted glass
For dignity..."

Bob Dylan (Dignity)

rh dijo...

Siento tanta verborragia, querida amiga. Tal vez estoy algo sensible porque hoy hice una cosa distinta. Me llamó una persona anoche para decirme que había perdido una sortija muy valiosa en la playa donde vivo. Esa persona nunca se portó muy bien conmigo a pesar de que muchas veces tuve que ayudarla (cosas de la sangre, de la familia). No puedo evitar ciertas cosas -abusrda conciencia quijotesca- así que me ví solo, en medio de un amanecer con el sol saliendo entre las dunas y en el extremo opuesto de una playa de 4 kilómetros, buscando una aguja en un pajar con sólo una escasa indicación del lugar: una botella de plástico junto a la línea de marca de la marea alta, a la altura de un determinado puesto de salvamento.
Cuando estaba en la faena apareció esa persona, que llegó de su ciudad (a cuarenta minutos de distancia) y escuché cómo me llamaba rompiendo el silencio extraordinario de la playa a esas horas. Se acercó y me indicó el lugar aproximado donde perdió la sortija. El primer barrido con la mirada me llevó a una fina línea de metal que aún no estaba enterrada. Encontramos la aguja en el pajar. Le dije que no volviera a la playa con algo tan valioso. Había sido de nuestra abuela. Le dije adiós. Me fui a trabajar y me hizo fotos mientras caminaba hacia las dunas, tras las que tenía el coche. No me pidió que fuera a buscar la sortija y no estaba obligado a hacerlo. Sin embargo lo hice. Y sonreí para mí pensando en mi abuela cuando conducía. Esa sonrisa se debía, pienso ahora, al premio de encontrar, pero sin embargo, la extraña e íntima satisfacción que sentí provenía no del éxito sino de haberlo intentado.
Es una tontería, lo sé. Pero es una de esas tonterías que a uno le hacen sentirse bien.

Y la playa, por cierto, hoy estaba preciosa con un mar azul intenso y un amanecer dorado y deslumbrante.


Viajo cuando leo tus palabras, recorro sensaciones....Gracias

Creo que lo malo que sucede en el mundo es cuando "la Humanidad" cruza el límite.

Un gran abrazo