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The humanitarian crisis in Somalia

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Reading about Somalia can be a depressing experience: because of the awfulness of the situation; the dim prospects for things getting any better; and the long-running nature of the crisis there. Throughout the last two decades, humanitarian actors have sought to ameliorate the worst consequences of the conflict in the country, hampered by constant insecurity and the lack of funding that goes with low-profile crises like Somalia’s. While the events of 9/11 raised brief hopes of a renewed focus on failed states, attention to the potential threat of terrorism has not translated into positive action to resolve Somalia’s political crisis.

As the articles collected here demonstrate, the current situation is truly dreadful. The remarkable resilience of Somalis in the face of decades of crisis and the generosity of the huge Somali diaspora may finally be stretched to breaking point. Any society, let alone one without a functional central government and reeling from decades of war, would struggle to cope with the combined consequences of massive displacement, intensified conflict, rapidly rising prices for food, fuel and water, hyper-inflation and drought. The articles here make clear that Somalis are no longer coping, and urgently need large-scale humanitarian assistance.

This issue of Humanitarian Exchange also includes a rich array of policy and practice articles. Kenya features in three articles, looking at the plight of people displaced in political violence, aid agency attempts to coordinate security management and, finally, an innovative response using mobile phones to transfer cash. Cash features again in a summary of its use by the World Bank in its responses to disasters in South Asia. There is also a refreshingly optimistic take on the impact of aid in the Central African Republic, an examination of the unreliability of data about countries in crisis on key websites and a review of World Vision’s attempts to develop and roll out standards and indicators for integrating protection concerns in its humanitarian response.

Various authors