Somalia Grappling With Humanitarian, Human Rights Crises

An independent expert is calling for international support for Somalia which is struggling to stave off famine and conflict amidst a humanitarian and human rights crisis. She has submitted her report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The most pressing issue facing Somalia is a looming famine resulting from four years of consecutive drought. U.N. agencies report hundreds of thousands of people are facing starvation as acute malnutrition reaches new heights.

Independent expert on the human rights situation in Somalia, Isha Dyfan, said 90% of Somalia’s districts are ravaged and more than a million people have been forced to leave their homes in search of lifesaving assistance.

“The drought has caused a grave humanitarian crisis affecting more than seven million people, in terms of food shortage, child mortality and acute malnutrition, and increased fighting for ever scarcer resources, which has resulted in mass displacement and an increase in violence against women and children.”

Dyfan noted Somalia also is facing a human rights crisis that is impeding the government’s peacebuilding and state-building efforts. She says the long-running armed conflict, perpetrated by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, continues to take a heavy toll on civilians and livelihoods. Fighting, she said, is preventing humanitarian relief from reaching communities in need.

“Al-Shabab continues to be a major threat and carry out targeted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including markets and hotels in the capital, Mogadishu and other towns under government authority. These deadly attacks by al-Shabab serves as a reminder that much work remains to be done in the fight to ensure security for all people in Somalia.”

FILE - Police and military officials comb the scene of an al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group militant attack in Mogadishu, Aug. 21, 2022.

FILE – Police and military officials comb the scene of an al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group militant attack in Mogadishu, Aug. 21, 2022.

Dyfan criticized Somalia’s government for failing to reign in human rights violations and abuses by its security forces, saying ongoing reports of intimidation, arbitrary arrest, and ill treatment of human rights defenders and journalists by security forces without accountability are deeply worrying.

In response, Somalia’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Ebyan Mahamed Salah, said the new Somali government is committed to ending impunity and is taking measures to ensure the proper administration of justice and accountability.

She said the new government is prioritizing the ongoing drought to try to head off a potential full-blown famine, and actions also are underway to tackle the culture of violence and fight extremism.

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