Sunday, December 16, 2007

Meet the latest "worst humanitarian catastrophe in Africa".

As if Darfur and Congo weren’t bad enough…

AFGOYE, Somalia (McClatchy News Service) Dec. 16 - A year after the U.S.-backed Ethiopian army toppled a hard-line Islamist regime in Somalia, the country has become Africa’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.

Some 200,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have fled from a pro-government offensive to makeshift camps along a 10-mile stretch of sun-baked asphalt that leads from the seaside capital of Mogadishu toward the inland town of Afgoye.

The crisis is brutal on young people.

One night last month, Fatima Sheikh Ali awoke to the deafening crash of mortar rounds on her neighbor’s roof. Shrapnel blasted through Ali’s tin-walled home in Mogadishu, and sent her 13-year-old daughter, Muna, into her arms, quaking.

Sometime in the chaos of that night, Muna stopped speaking. In an overcrowded encampment of sand and scrub a few miles from the capital, where the family now lives among thousands made homeless by the war, Muna silently collects firewood and looks after her siblings, a worried gaze fixed in her eyes.

“She is traumatized,” her mother said, and a warren of women who had gathered around her murmured sympathetically. A nurse with the Somali Red Crescent Society said, “There is nothing to be done. It is a very sad story.”

The conflicts in Sudan’s Darfur region and in eastern Congo may have displaced more people, but international relief efforts in Somalia have faltered in the face of violence that has emptied entire neighborhoods in Mogadishu.

Most displaced Somalis, such as Muna’s family, live in dome-shaped huts made out of spindly tree branches and covered with tattered swatches of fabric or plastic. They sprout from the sand like multicolored mushrooms along the road from the capital.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said earlier this month that one-quarter of the refugees around Afgoye were younger than 5. Both sides are using older boys as combatants, and girls who venture out of the camps risk being raped by freelance militias, the agency said.

“Things are now getting absolutely worse,” said Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF representative for Somalia. “There is a dirtiness to this war. Children are a real target“…

The rest here. As bad as all this is - and it is bad - the worst aspect of what’s in this piece is the part which focuses on the war on children which is so much a part of this chaos. Children as targets for rape, for abuse, for killing, as a source of cannon fodder. And, as usual, the Bootlicking Corporate Media in this country is ignoring this crisis as it spirals out of control. I have heard some very solid coverage on the BBC World Service, but even there, the coverage isn’t consistent.

But it is always depressing. And frustrating.

Americans - especially American politicians - don’t want to go near this place. They’re all suffering from “Blackhawk Down Syndrome,” as a voice on the BBC put it recently. Too many bad memories of dead American soldiers being dragged through the streets. And, of course, as in Darfur, the problem seems so intractable as to be utterly hopeless (especially because the longer the world goes without doing anything, the worse things get). And besides, it’s - once again - just a whole bunch of poor black people with no resources killing each other - again - so why should the West care?

You know, it’s funny: I used to see kids - usually teenagers - and folks who were old enough to know better spouting off about “anarchy.” A lot of the old school punks and proto-Goths railed on about the supposed glories of anarchy in their music. They’d spray paint that big goofy red “A” with the circle around it on walls and wear it on their black t-shirts. Even now, there’s an anarchist streak in a lot of radical bloggers out here in the cyber-sandbox. They go on and on about how great things would be if we could just give anarchy a try.

The thing is, we have. In the Balkins. In Rwanda. In Darfur. In Congo. And now in Somalia.

Look at the picture above. That’s what anarchy looks like. With a dose of apathy thrown in.

Somalia resources:

Inform yourselves. Time to get UNRULY!

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