Somalia suffers, out of world’s spotlight

/ Source: The Associated Press

At least 54,000 people in Somalia urgently need food, water, shelter and medical care a week after deadly tsunamis slammed African shores, officials said Monday.

Some 24 countries, including the United States, have pledged to send relief supplies to Somalia, but nothing has arrived on the ground, said Somali presidential spokesman Yusuf Mohamed Ismail. He said survivors urgently need help after losing their homes and livelihoods.

“We are very happy that relief supplies have arrived in Asia, which was hit the hardest by the tragedy, but Somalia — which has been ravaged from a 13-year civil war, drought and political neglect — also needs emergency help to deal with the latest calamity,” Yusuf told The Associated Press.

At least 200 people were killed and many others are missing after violent waves hammered the Somali coast on Dec. 26, Yusuf said.

Some of those affected have begun receiving food aid from United Nations agencies that diverted supplies intended for Somalis suffering from a four-year drought, Yusuf and U.N. officials said.

But Kazimiro Rudolf, acting head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said those supplies need to be restored to the drought-relief program.

The latest U.N. assessment showed that some 54,000 people in the country were badly affected by the tsunami, Rudolf said.

Most of the victims are from the Indian Ocean coastline of the semiautonomous region of Puntland, including the northeastern Hafun island that was hardest hit by the tsunami.

The waves were triggered by the undersea quake centered off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, about 2,800 miles across the Indian Ocean.

Fishing season affected
The tsunami hit during fishing season, when Somalis set up temporary fishing settlements closer to the coast, Rudolf told the AP.

They lost fishing equipment, personal belongings and livelihoods. The few cattle herders along the coast have also been affected as their grazing has now been partly damaged, said Laura Melo, spokeswoman of the U.N. food aid agency.

All fishery activities along the Somalia coast seem to have been suspended, Melo said.

Members of the Somali community abroad are raising funds to help compatriots affected by the deadly waves, Yusuf said.

Unlike other affected countries in Asia, Somalia lacks the capacity to assess the damage.

The U.N. food aid agency has sent out four teams to assess humanitarian need and distribute aid to Somalis affected by the waves, Melo said.

The presence of large numbers of anti-aircraft guns owned by local warlords prevented U.N. officials from flying over parts of the Somali coastline to assess the damage in those areas last week.