Where next for Somalia?

Khalid Salat Shikh Ali (7), who lives in Belet Xaawo in Somalia after being forced to flee his home due to fighting in the country (Kim Haughton / Trócaire)

Drought and conflict grip Somalia, making it one of the most challenging environments in the world for humanitarian operations. Lack of governance or structures mean the task of providing aid is even tougher. Somalia doesn’t just need aid, it needs a way out of this catastrophe.

Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Caritas Somalia and Caritas Djibouti is in the United States to draw attention to the broader issues of the Somalia crisis at the UN and with Caritas partners and Catholic Church. He has been leading relief efforts on behalf Caritas in Somalia as famine was declared in parts of the country last July.

“After 21 years with no governance, Somalia needs law and order,” says Bishop Bertin. “We need to search more carefully to see what options there are for order, stability, and peace.

“We hear lots about piracy and the refugee crisis, but not about the people who are suffering there. We have a moral duty to say more about what we know, what we see, what we hear from the people.”

“If we say Somalia is a failed state, where are the black holes?” he says. “The United Nations roadmap is at least a step. We need rule of law. With piracy, solutions are not just on the sea, but on the land; a state must be built before piracy can be addressed comprehensively.”

Four million people in Somalia still need food relief. The famine has receded in three areas but continues in Middle Shabelle as well as among those people forced from their homes in Afgoye and Mogadishu.

In Somalia, Caritas currently provides food and tents to needy people, along with water pumps, educational fees, solar kits for rural schools and health care.

Bishop Bertin says that problems with delivering aid will remain until progress towards peace is made.

“After 15 peace conferences over the years still we’re waiting for some solution, some genuine opportunity to move out from chaos,” he says. The British Prime Minister David Cameron is planning a meeting to discuss the security challenges that Somalia poses to its people and the world at large.

“It’s a hard job that needs serious partners. A solution will come to Somalia through the Somali people,” says Bertin. “We must work at it, be insistent that we can achieve it.”

“Do I believe peace can come? Yes. I have faith in God absolutely, but also faith in human beings,” says Bishop Bertin. “So with faith, trust, hope I see the peace that’s possible. We can find the future that Somalis need and want.”

Data sources: the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) for Somalia and the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET).

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Secretary General: Michel Roy

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