Such was the horror that erupted in her village earlier this year that Fadumo Ali Mohamed decided she had no choice but to leave. Through the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, she walked for 30 kilometres, along with her nine children, eventually getting help to reach the capital by car.
Now in Mogadishu, she is one of more than 800,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the capital living in cramped, informal settlements with limited access to food, water and healthcare. She doesn’t like to recall the violence she fled.
“Fighting between two clans erupted and we could not move anywhere for two days. My cousin and aunt died in the crossfire,” she says. “The warring militias blocked the wells; no one dared to get close to them, so I decided to escape with my children.”
They trekked through traumatic scenes of horror that turned their neighbourhood into a “ghost village”. “It was a nightmare that I hate to remember – burning houses and helpless people dying on the road,” she says. “They have been fighting for a long time, but it has got worse and worse recently.”
Prolonged droughts, shrinking water resources and lack of fertile land are fuelling tensions between clans and creating large-scale displacement across Somalia. A cluster of overlapping crises are menacing the fragile east African country, with the climate crisis exacerbating existing conflicts and contributing to new ones, Covid-19 claiming lives and livelihoods, and political instability never far away.
The result, warn humanitarian agencies, is hunger: the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned earlier this month that Somalia is “on the cusp of a humanitarian catastrophe”, with one in four people facing high levels of acute food insecurity and more than 800,000 children under the age of five at risk of acute malnutrition.
Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC’s regional director for Africa, says: “Somalia is one of the riskiest places on Earth to live right now. The country is a catalogue of catastrophes. Climate-related disasters, conflict and Covid-19 have coalesced into a major humanitarian crisis for millions of people. We can’t keep talking about this; we must reduce suffering now.”
For Mohamed, living in a small makeshift shelter with her children, managing to eat only once a day, the warning resonates. “We used to earn a living by washing clothes for people in the city, but when the [second wave of the] coronavirus began, everyone closed their doors,” she says. “Life became extremely difficult. We don’t have anything to eat.”
With a fragile economy largely based on agriculture, Somalia is vulnerable to increasingly erratic and extreme weather patterns, such as repeated droughts and seasonal floods. In the former, crops fail, and livestock die from lack of water and food; in the latter, they are simply washed away. Like much of the region, the country has also had to contend this year and last with swarms of desert locusts that consume approximately their own weight in fresh food every day.
Ahmed Yarow Ahmed, 50, fled the town of Rabdhure in the south-west Bakool region when his livestock were wiped out in the 2017 drought. One of Somalia’s 2.9 million displaced people, he has since been living in an IDP camp in the city of Baidoa.
“I had 70 goats and a farm and I have tried my best to make the most of the two,” says the father of nine children. “But I was forced to leave when the rains failed for three consecutive years and all of my livestock died.
“There are people who lost their lives. But life in the camps is not any better, because there is not enough food. There are vulnerable people here, including the elderly, women and unaccompanied children who have nothing to eat. We share the little we have with each other.
“There is no hope of returning to our homes any time soon because our lifestyle has completely changed and the rains are no longer reliable. We are now used to the city life. I want my children to get education and lead a better life.”
In June, the UN said Somalia was facing the worst funding shortage in six years. In an emergency appeal launched in July, the IFRC said it was seeking to raise £7m (8.7m Swiss francs) to support the Somali Red Crescent Society to deliver humanitarian assistance to people in Somaliland and Puntland over the next 18 months.
It warned that Covid was likely to lead to worsening nutrition among vulnerable groups, including poor households in urban areas and IDPs living in crowded, unhygienic conditions.
The pandemic has disrupted the Somali economy, which had been slowly recovering from years of conflict before Covid-19 hit. According to the World Bank, the economy contracted by 1.5% in 2020. The livestock sector, which makes up at least 40% of the country’s GDP, was particularly affected.
“I have lost almost 50% of my business since the pandemic started,” says Mohamed Awad from the port city of Bosaso, where most livestock is exported. “Saudi Arabia, which is our main export partner, has cancelled livestock imports, and other countries in the Middle East have also closed down their borders due to the disease.
“So it is not just me: this means a lot of people have lost their livelihoods, including the herders, the middlemen, the pastoralists … even the government’s income has been affected.”
None of this would be news to Fadumo Ali Mohamed. “We only eat once a day; water is for sale here and we cannot afford to pay for it,” she says. “My children’s father is sick and there is no access to medicine, so life is extremely difficult.”
This is not the first time Mohamed has been forced to flee her home of Balad Amin in Lower Shabelle. She was also in Mogadishu four years ago when the country was on the brink of famine.
“In 2017, we had to leave because there was no rain, no food and nothing else. Everyone was running to Mogadishu and I followed the people to save my children,” she says. But last year she was forcefully evicted from her shelter in an IDP camp in the capital’s Kahda district.
“The owners of the land came and evicted us from our settlement. We had nowhere else to go so we decided to return to our village, only to be forced back again by the fighting,” she says. “I gave up now. I will rather struggle to survive here than keep running around.”
Ten women and girls killed every day in Mexico, Amnesty report says | Global development
At least 10 women and girls are murdered every day in Mexico, according to a new report that says victims’ families are often left to carry out their own homicide investigations.
The scathing report, released on Monday by Amnesty International, documents both the scale of the violence and the disturbing lack of interest on the part of Mexican authorities to prevent or solve the murders.
“Mexico is continuing to fail to fulfil its duty to investigate and, therefore, its duty to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of the victims as well as to prevent violence against women,” says the report, Justice on Trial.
“Feminicidal violence and the failings in investigation and prevention in northern Mexico are not anecdotal, but rather form part of a broader reality in the country,” the report adds.
Femicide has been rife in Mexico for decades – most notoriously in an epidemic of murders which claimed the life of some 400 women in the border city Ciudad Juárez during the 1990s. In recent years, a growing feminist movement has held massive street protests against the violence, but authorities have proved unwilling to take action to stop the killing.
“It’s always a question of political will,” said Maricruz Ocampo, a women’s activist in the state of Querétaro.
Ocampo has been part of teams lobbying state governors to issue an alert when femicides reach scandalously high levels – a move to raise awareness and mobilise resources. But officials often resist such moves, she said, as governors worry about their states’ images and investment.
“They refuse to recognise there is a problem,” she said.
The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also downplayed the problem. He branded the women protesting on 8 March, International Women’s Day, as “conservatives” and alleged a dark hand manipulating the demonstrations.
When asked last year about rising violence against women, he responded, “Tell all the women of Mexico that they are protected and represented, that we’re doing everything possible to guarantee peace and quiet and that I understand that our adversaries are looking for ways to confront us.”
Mexico recorded the murders of 3,723 women in 2020. Some 940 of those murders were investigated as femicides.
The Amnesty report focused on Mexico state, a vast collection of gritty suburbs surrounding Mexico City on three sides. It has become notorious for femicides over the past decade – and for the way the former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, a former Mexico state governor, ignored the problem.
The report found cases of families carrying out their own detective work, which were ignored by investigators. In many cases, authorities contaminated crime scenes or mishandled evidence. They often did not even pursue leads such as geolocation information from victims’ mobile phones.
In the case of Julia Sosa, whose children believe she was killed by her partner, two daughters found her body buried on the suspect’s property – but had to wait hours for police to arrive and process the crime scene. One of her daughters recalled the subsequent interview process, in which “the police officer was falling asleep”.
Sosa’s partner hanged himself, prompting police to close the case, even though family members said there were more leads to pursue.
In states rife with drug cartel violence, activists say cases of femicides go uninvestigated as impunity is commonplace.
“The authorities say it’s organised crime and that’s it,” said Yolotzin Jaimes, a women’s rights campaigner in the southern state of Guerrero. “Many of these aggressors find protection under the excuse of organised crime.”
The persistence of femicides is a stark contrast to recent gains by the women’s movement in Mexico. The country’s supreme court decriminalised abortion earlier this month. A new congress recently sworn in has gender parity and seven female governors will be installed by the end of year – up from just two before last June’s election’s
The decriminalisation of abortion “let off some steam” from the pressure driving the protests “because part of the demands was over the right to choose,” Ocampo said. “But when it comes to violence, we still see it everywhere.”
US official urges EU to speed up enlargement
Gabriel Escobar, the US’ newly-appointed acting deputy secretary of state for South Central Europe, has urged Europe to speed up Western Balkans enlargement. “To return 20 years later and see that there hasn’t been much progress on that front was a little disappointing,” he told the RFE/RL news agency Friday, referring to his last post in Europe in 2001. “We would like to see a more rapid integration,” he said.
Climate crisis leaving ‘millions at risk of trafficking and slavery’ | Global development
Millions of people forced to leave their homes because of severe drought and powerful cyclones are at risk of modern slavery and human trafficking over the coming decades, a new report warns.
The climate crisis and the increasing frequency of extreme weather disasters including floods, droughts and megafires are having a devastating effect on the livelihoods of people already living in poverty and making them more vulnerable to slavery, according to the report, published today.
Researchers from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Anti-Slavery International found that drought in northern Ghana had led young men and women to migrate to major cities. Many women begin working as porters and are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and debt bondage – a form of modern slavery in which workers are trapped in work and exploited to pay off a huge debt.
One woman, who migrated to Accra from northern Ghana, used to farm until the land was ruined by flooding and she was forced to move. For seven years she has worked as a porter (kayayie), carrying items on her head.
She said: “Working as a kayayie has not been easy for me. When I came here, I did not know anything about the work. I was told that the woman providing our pans will also feed us and give us accommodation. However, all my earnings go to her and only sometimes will she give me a small part of the money I’ve earned.”
She dropped a customer’s items once and had to pay for the damage, which she could not afford. The woman in charge paid up on condition that she repay her. She added: “I have been working endlessly and have not been able to repay.”
In the Sundarbans, on the border between India and Bangladesh, severe cyclones have caused flooding in the delta, reducing the land available for farming. With countries in the region tightening immigration restrictions, researchers found that smugglers and traffickers operating in the disaster-prone region were targeting widows and men desperate to cross the border to India to find employment and income. Trafficking victims were often forced into hard labour and prostitution, with some working in sweatshops along the border.
Fran Witt, a climate change and modern slavery adviser at Anti-Slavery International, said: “Our research shows the domino effect of climate change on millions of people’s lives. Extreme weather events contribute to environmental destruction, forcing people to leave their homes and leaving them vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and slavery.”
The World Bank estimates that, by 2050, the impact of the climate crisis, such as poor crop yields, a lack of water and rising sea levels, will force more than 216 million people across six regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia and Latin America, from their homes.
The report is a stark warning to world leaders in advance of the Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow in November and calls on them to make sure efforts to address the climate emergency also tackle modern slavery. The report says labour and migrant rights abuses are disregardedin the interests of rapid economic growth and development.
Ritu Bharadwaj, a researcher for the IIED, said: “The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking that’s being fuelled by climate change. Addressing these issues needs to be part and parcel of global plans to tackle climate change.”
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