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‘I have nothing now’, says Somali mother-of-seven who lost entire family in search for food and water



When Suray Mohamed left her village in search of food and water a few weeks ago she was a wife and mother.

By the time she arrived at the town of Baidoa she had become a widow and her children were dead.

Along the dusty road she watched them die, one by one. There were four boys and three girls.

In a soft voice, she names them: ‘’Isaak, Mohamed, Mustafa, Amina, Abdi, Ihdi, Hadija.’’ Her voice trails off.

“They should be sitting with me here. But I have nothing now, I have nothing now.”

The first child died a few days along the road, she tells me, the second three days later. “On one day, a child died in the morning, then that night, another died,” she said.

Suray squats outside her tent. There are 100,000 people in the crowded camps that have sprung up in the scrubby sands around Baidoa. But this woman is alone.

“The last was my baby I was still breastfeeding,” she said.

“Some kind villagers helped me bury her. It was not a proper grave. The ground was too hard.

“I was not in my senses any more. I don’t even know how I got here in the end. I was lost in my grief.”

In the camps here you will find many widows, and many grieving mothers. Hunger has driven half a million Somalis to leave their homes.

Yet for the moment hunger is not the main danger.

The drought has brought disease, and disease has brought death from dirty water in dried out wells and poor hygiene.

The most feared is cholera; it can kill in hours, preying on bodies already weakened by malnutrition.

Abaay Adbirahim Daud is 12.

She cradles her little brother, Abbas, as she waits in a patient queue for fresh water that comes spilling from a tanker organised by World Vision, one of the humanitarian groups working in Baidoa.

The gurgling water is the most precious commodity there is.

Abaay tells me both her grandmother and mother are dead. They fell sick after drinking from the well in their home village.

The water was sour, a neighbour explains. First came the stomach pains, then the sickness and diarrhoea, then death.

“We had no water, even to wash their bodies,’” said Abaay.

Simon Nyabwengi, Somalia Country Director of World Vision, said: “Almost every other woman we speak to seems to have lost a child or a husband.

“There are horrendous stories we are hearing of families losing four, five, six children. And they are losing those children walking to where they expect to get help.”

So far there have been 21,000 officially reported cases of cholera and more than 500 deaths.

But they are only the statistics they can count. No-one really knows what is happening out in the villages.

The true death toll might already run into the several thousands.

The countryside outside Baidoa is dominated by Al Shabab; which has denounced foreign aid and attacked aid workers.

The cholera outbreak is the latest escalation of an emergency that threatens to dwarf the already sizable humanitarian response.

If the drought continues, then it is thought more than 185,000 children could be at imminent risk of starving to death.

“The world has responded with great generosity but the scale of this crisis is outstripping our ability to deal with it,” said Nyabwengi.

Al Shabab, three years without rain, and now cholera. A lethal combination.

“We call it the witches brew,” said Nyabwengi.

Outside her tent, Muraysa Sankus nurses her infant daughter, Fatima.

At the camp, she will receive emergency rations that will save her daughters life.

But Muraysa says she has three more children who were too weak to make the journey.

“They could not stand or walk,” she said. “I had to leave them at home with their grandmother. They are in the care of god. Only he will decide what will happen to them.”

For more on how you can make a donation, visit the World Vision and the Unicef website.

Briefing Room

Singapore-flagged tanker attacked off Somalia but escapes



AP — Mogadishu – An international anti-piracy force says a Singapore-flagged chemical tanker has exchanged fire with attackers off the coast of Somalia before escaping unharmed.

The European Union anti-piracy force says in a statement that the MT Leopard Sun was attacked by two skiffs early on Friday about 160 nautical miles off central Somalia. A private security team on the tanker fired warning shots and the skiffs turned away about 20 minutes later.

The Horn of Africa nation saw a brief resurgence of pirate attacks a year ago.

The EU statement says Friday’s attack is “likely to be piracy related” and is the first such attack since November.

The statement says the chemical tanker had been en route from Oman to Cape Town, South Africa.

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Can Somalia’s fishing industry keep pirates out of business?



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Rising piracy on Indian Ocean spells high insurance charges



Daily Nation — Cases of piracy in Indian Ocean off Somalia coast increased in 2017, raising fears that sustained attacks could raise insurance and freight costs for Kenya importers.

Nine piracy attacks were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016, a new report shows, as global attacks dropped to a 22-year low.

“The dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline,” Mr Pottengal Mukundan, International Maritime Bureau (IMB), director said in a statement.

The increase in such attacks usually comes with costs such as increased insurance premiums, longer freight routes as vessels avoid hot spots and additional cost of hiring private armed guards.

For country that imports more than Sh1.3 trillion worth of consumer and industrial goods, the increased cost is eventually passed to the consumer through higher retail prices.

In their heyday six years ago, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia in 2011, the IMB says, and held hundreds of hostages.

That year, Ocean’s Beyond Piracy estimated the global cost of piracy was about $7 billion.

The shipping industry bore roughly 80 per cent of those costs, the group’s analysis showed.

But attacks fell sharply after ship owners tightened security and avoided the Somali coast.

Intervention by regional naval forces that flooded into the area helped disrupt several hijack bids and improved security for the strategic trade route that leads through the Suez Canal and links the oilfields of the Middle East with European ports.

The IMB data shows a total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships took place globally, the lowest level of sea-based crimes to be recorded since 1995, when 188 reports were received.

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