Somalia: Daily Life

At 8:30 am the streets are crowded after the Islamic call to prayer. The echo of gunfire in the distance is a normal, and seemingly daily occurrence, in present day Mogadishu. Pick up trucks armed with groups of men carrying machine guns firing rounds to hurry along busy traffic is common, and it carries on throughout the day and into the bat-studded night sky. Mogadishu has been called the most dangerous city on earth and the country has been wrought with civil war between Islamist extremists and a failing government since 1991. Since then there has been no central government control over the country’s territory and the region has been stricken with devastating violence and famine. There are an estimated 3.7 million Somali’s living without enough food and the rate of malnutrition is approximately 50%, the highest in the world. It’s difficult for aid agencies to gain access into Somalia because many have been blocked by al-Shabab—the Somali cell of al-Qaeda—leaving nearly a quarter million people trapped without access to food. Photographer Anthony Karen ventured to Somalia’s capital in January 2012 to document the daily life of the people who call the war-torn country home and to visit the the Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenyan-Somali border.

Famine in Somalia

The United Nations declares a famine when 20% of households face severe food shortages. more than 30 % of the population is malnourished, and two out of every 10,000 people die from hunger each day. In July 2011, in the midst of the worst drought the country had seen in more than 60 years, the UN officially declared a famine in Somalia. The anti-Western, al-Qaeda linked militant group, al-Shabab made the situation worse, banning Western aid agencies from entering the territory and subsequently blocking starving individuals from gaining access to food. Al-Shabab has accused foreign aid workers of being spies as well as killed and kidnapped workers. The group has also diverted food supplies for themselves, leaving starving Somalis without any options and aid organizations in a tricky spot.

In February 2012, the UN declared the famine in Somalia to be over, but the country still remains in crisis with widespread hunger and violence. Since the collapse of its central government two decades ago and the civil war that ensued in 1991, Somalia has been faced with myriad disasters and has ranked as one of the poorest, most violent countries on earth. Last year, a drought killed livestock and farms which spiked death and malnutrition rates. Desperate Somalis trekked across the desert in search of aid and some arrived in Kenyan refugee camps while the few hospitals in Mogadishu were overcrowded with malnourished people affected by famine and violence.

The United Nations helped to raise more than $1 billion for relief efforts across Somalia and organizations such as the Turkish Red Crescent Society and The World Food Program have been working towards providing humanitarian relief in the country. Also, with the help of heavy rains in November, famine conditions began to subside in some parts of the country. However, the crisis is far from over and violence, instability and hunger is still widespread across Somalia.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a leading humanitarian organization that provides medical care to people caught in crises. They work within over 60 countries and remain the main provider for free medical services in central and southern Somalia.

The World Food Programme reaches up to 1.3 million peopole with food relief to areas of Somalia which they have access to including, Mogadishu, Puntland, Somaliland, central regions and some border areas of the south. They have increased their nutrition programs to treat and prevent malnutrition.