Meditation Focus #56
Humanitarian Crisis Looming in Somalia
What follows is the 56th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, January 20, 2001.
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS LOOMING IN SOMALIA
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Focus
4. Peace Watch for the Middle East
5. Peace Watch for Kashmir
At any point in time, there are always critically urgent humanitarian crisis that seldom make the headlines. At this very moment more than 500,000 people are fleeing the erupting volcano Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are going to live in precarious conditions for several weeks or months. Central America is still reeling from a prolonged drought, the latest in a long line of Central American natural disasters and millions of people there have a very hard time to cope with very little assistance from the rest of the world. Hundreds of thousands of people are in an extremely vulnerable situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Soudan and southern Ethiopia as well as several other African countries face widespread hunger because of a prolonged lack of rain and various civil wars. For this Meditation Focus we would like to recommend more specifically to your attention the situation in Somalia where, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), "10 years of protracted civil unrest and natural disasters (including flood and drought) have caused crop failures and continue to threaten Somalia's ability to feed itself. Much of Somalia's material resources have been destroyed, thereby eroding the coping mechanisms of the population. Somalia is classified as one of the least developed and low-income, food-deficit countries." Only 5,000 tons of the 20,000 the WFP requested last August have been provided by donor governments. The region most at risk is Southern Somalia where more than 500,000 people are likely to die of starvation from serious food shortage due to drought and economic turmoil. Global malnutrition rates ranging from 17-30 percent have been assessed in many regions of the south with severe malnutrition rates of 3-6 percent. The worst affected region is Bakool in the south, where almost half the population is considered in need of some form of food assistance.
To further aggravate this problem, the "precarious humanitarian situation" in southern Somalia has been worsened by a United States clampdown on Islamic money-lending institutions accused of being channels for terrorist funds, according to an official with a leading British charity. "The current drought, the very low level of humanitarian assistance, the prevailing climate of insecurity and the fears of further disruption could push an already very precarious situation over the edge," said WFP's Somalia country director, Kevin Farrell. Fortunately, as of 17 Jan 2002, the UN Food Security Analysis Unit has forecast a better than expected harvest for January-February in southern Somalia following the Deyr short rains. These experts however cautioned that this optimistic forecast would only be met "if the long dry spell has not caused irreversible moisture stress, there is no unusual insect damage, no insecurity in the agricultural areas...and no unusual drop in river water".
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to contribute in ensuring that proper food assistance is provided by the responsible aid agencies to all our brothers and sisters in need of such assistance in Southern Somalia. Envision also that peace and security prevail in this whole area of the world so as to facilitate not only such assistance but also to bring back a social and political environment where all people can live a dignified, fulfilling life. May we also see similar assistance and succour given on a sustained basis to all those in need of such help around the world so as to ensure a fair sharing of food and resources, for the Highest Good of All.
This whole Meditation Focus is also available at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus56.htm
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
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You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. MORE INFORMATION ON THIS FOCUS
This section is for those who wish to understand in more details the situation pertaining to the current Meditation Focus. We encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. The details below are provided because we recognise that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.
Thousands Face Starvation
The Nation (Nairobi) December 30, 2001 Posted to the web December 31, 2001
More than 500,000 people are likely to die of starvation in Southern Somalia. The area is suffering from serious food shortage due to drought and economic turmoil, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.
The UN agency has expressed increased concern about the precarious humanitarian situation in the region warning that any further setbacks could have disastrous consequences.
"For months now we have been warning about a major crisis developing in Somalia," said WFP's country director for Somalia, Kevin Farrell. "I now strongly fear that the situation will deteriorate even further unless the level of humanitarian assistance increases substantially."
Mr Farrell said the situation was particularly acute in Gedo region, and parts of Bay and Bakool, where the almost complete failure of the main harvest in August greatly reduced the amount of food available to people.
Mr Farrell said malnutrition rates amongst children under the age of five in Gedo region had now reached very alarming levels, reflecting the extent of food shortages faced by Somali families, and their limited ability to cope.
Mr Farrell said over recent weeks, the difficulties faced by Somali families has been exacerbated by the reduction of overseas remittance income with the closure in November of the main money transfer company.
Anti-Terror Banking Move Worsens Somalia Food Crisis (January 02)
By Daniel Nelson and Jim Lobe, OneWorld
The "precarious humanitarian situation" in southern Somalia has been worsened by a United States clampdown on Islamic money-lending institutions accused of being channels for terrorist funds, an official with a leading British charity said today.
A move by President George W. Bush to freeze the assets of a Somali-owned money transfer company, al-Barakaat--accused by Washington of diverting costs to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network--has had "catastrophic" effects according to Judith Malby of Christian Aid.
The freeze announced by Bush last November--based, according to the al-Barakaat company, on "malicious lies"--was having "a knock-on effect on everybody," Malby said.
The company was used by tens of thousands of Somalis working abroad to send money home and was a vital part of the country's limping economy, she said.
Malby's comments follow similar concerns by the World Food Programme (WFP), which is trying to raise awareness of the humanitarian situation in Somalia's southern Gedo province, where it says some 500,000 people are suffering "serious food shortages."
The Rome-based United Nations agency blames drought and economic turmoil, but says conditions have been made worse by a sharp fall in money sent home by overseas Somalis as a result of the squeeze on al-Barakaat.
The WFP says nearly 40 percent of children in Gedo are malnourished--almost 10 percent severely so--and that the total failure of the August harvest combined with continuing drought means there is no prospect of an improvement in the situation unless donors provide 15,000 tons of food urgently.
The agency says only 5,000 tons of the 20,000 it requested last August have been provided by donor governments.
Reports that Washington is preparing to take military action in Somalia as part of the next stage in Bush's "war against terrorism" have also contributed to the deteriorating situation, according to both WFP and independent relief officials active in the East African nation.
"Far from spreading fear, the U.S. and other governments should help us fight poverty and the injustices that cause it," said Ahmed Aden, the Somalia director for Britain's ActionAid.
"The current drought, the very low level of humanitarian assistance, the prevailing climate of insecurity and the fears of further disruption could push an already very precarious situation over the edge," said WFP's Somalia country director, Kevin Farrell.
Although speculation about imminent military action against the Somali government--which has strongly denied connections with al-Qaeda--has diminished over the past 10 days, Washington remains concerned about the activities of a number of individuals living in Somalia, according to sources, as well as the possibility that Somalia may still be the preferred destination of al-Qaeda forces routed from Afghanistan.
While few observers think that large-scale military action against the Somali administration is likely, covert operations targeting specific individuals remain a distinct possibility, according to reports.
From: http://www.wfp.org/country_brief/index.asp?continent=1 (select Somalia)
Somalia is classified as one of the least developed and low-income, food-deficit countries. 10 years of protracted civil unrest and natural disasters (including flood and drought) have caused crop failures and continue to threaten Somalia's ability to feed itself. Much of Somalia's material resources have been destroyed, thereby eroding the coping mechanisms of the population.
The following are major contributing factors:
The sharp fluctuation in annual crop and livestock production as a result of periodic drought and floods in rain-fed and riverine areas;
Localised seed shortage; Pest infestation; Limited use of tractors and fertilisers in riverine areas; Limited market for livestock and lack of veterinary services; Disruption of inter-regional trading patterns as a result of conflict; Inflation and limited income opportunities and purchasing power among the poor.
Based on recent food needs assessments, an estimated 750,000 people in Somalia, 12 percent of the country's population, currently require food assistance. Of these, some 120,000 are in Mogadishu, 514,000 in southern and central Somalia and 50,000 are in the northeast and 67,000 are in northwest Somalia, including Sool and Sanag regions.
Global malnutrition rates ranging from 17-30 percent have been assessed in many regions of the south with severe malnutrition rates of 3-6 percent. The worst affected region is Bakool in the south, where almost half the population is considered in need of some form of food assistance.
OneWorld Full Coverage on Somalia
3 ARTICLES AVAILABLE AT THIS URL:
SOMALIA: Opposition group urges international community to help
ADDIS ABABA, 18 Jan 2002 (IRIN) - The Somali opposition grouping, Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), on Friday urged the international community to step in and resolve once and for all the civil conflict that has blighted the war-ravaged country since 1991. (...) "The people of Somalia have had enough of fighting and no government," he added. "We have been waiting 11 years for IGAD to solve our problems and we want to start the reconstruction of our country. There is no peace, no law and order, no nothing. We are suffering, our people are dying." CLIP
SOMALIA: Optimistic forecast for southern harvest
NAIROBI, 17 Jan 2002 (IRIN) - A UN food security unit has forecast a better than expected harvest for January-February in southern Somalia following the Deyr short rains.
A report by the Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU), which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said the harvest "is likely to exceed average Deyr cereal production, which varies between 90,000 and 110,000 mt". Estimates showed that the combined cereal production of maize and sorghum could reach 161,000 mt - this was double the postwar average, and 68 percent greater than the Deyr 2000 harvest, the report said. (...) If the forecast was correct, the harvest should go a considerable way towards easing current hardships particularly for poorer and more vulnerable households in the south, the report said. It warned, however, that the optimistic forecast would only be met "if the long dry spell has not caused irreversible moisture stress, there is no unusual insect damage, no insecurity in the agricultural areas...and no unusual drop in river water".
SOMALIA: Annan calls for reconciliation
NAIROBI, 11 Jan 2002 (IRIN) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for reconciliation and rehabilitation in Somalia, saying these were among the Horn of Africa's key concerns. In this respect, he urged Somali leaders to put aside their differences. (...) "The United Nations will help Somalia heal its wounds and achieve progress, including by way of the deployment of a post-conflict peace-building mission should the security situation permit," he said. "But no amount of goodwill, support and assistance on the part of the of IGAD or the international community alone will bring about peace in Somalia. Only Somalia's leaders can decide to end the suffering of their people. They need to rise above their differences and put the interest of the people of Somalia first and foremost." Annan went on to say that IGAD member countries faced formidable challenges, including drought, environmental degradation and conflict, which had threatened food security and led to massive displacements of people. CLIP
The OneWorld database contains tens of thousands of documents on Somalia from the partners' websites. OneWorld is a community of over 1000 organisations working for social justice.
World Food Programme website with details on all the main food crisis around the world
America, Spare Somalia for God's Sake (The Monitor -Kampala- OPINION January 2)
(...) Even according to America's own intelligence, the al Qaeda cells found in Somalia are far less active or cohesive than those in Italy, Brussels and Britain. A United States intrusion into Somalia would destabilise the fragile peace that has been achieved in the country, where a transitional authority with the mandate to establish a permanent, all-inclusive government for the whole nation has been finally created after years of strife. Unless, as some Somalis believe, the United States' kite flying strategy is a weak, primordial lust to take vengeance on the Aideed-led faction that drove them out of Mogadiscio in October 1993. I hope not. CLIP
US seeks proxy forces in war against terror (January 10, 2002)
4. PEACE WATCH FOR THE MIDDLE EAST
Here are some of the latest developments in the Middle East. Please also keep this situation in mind during your meditations in the coming two weeks to help ensure that peace prevail there as well.
Saturday January 19
Ramallah TV-Radio Complex Destroyed
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Israel troops lit up the night sky with a powerful explosion that gutted the official Palestinian broadcasting building Saturday, dealing another retaliatory blow to Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) and the Palestinian Authority (news - web sites).
Israel said its latest strike against the Palestinians was in response to a deadly attack by militants two days earlier. Officials said the media center was targeted because it was the source of what the Israelis described as incitement throughout the Mideast conflict.
The Palestinians called the demolition part of an ongoing Israeli attempt to undermine their leadership.
``The current situation is very dangerous,'' Arafat told journalists after meeting a delegation of Italian lawmakers in his Ramallah office, surrounded by Israeli forces for a second day.
``I call on the international community to make an immediate move to rescue the situation before it explodes,'' he said.
Only hours after the Israeli operation at the broadcasting building in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Palestinian broadcasting returned to the air. The Voice of Palestine operated out of several local radio stations in Ramallah while Palestine Television used alternative facilities here and in the Gaza Strip.
After nearly a month of relative calm, the past week has seen a renewal of the retaliatory violence that has marked the conflict, now almost 16 months old.
The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah (news - web sites) movement, said Thursday's attack against the Israelis was in retaliation for the death of their leader Raed Karmi, killed in an explosion last Monday that was blamed on Israel.
Arafat's seven-week confinement in Ramallah has him in a quandary. He is under pressure from the U.S. and Israel to dismantle militant groups, but such crackdowns are running into resistance from some Palestinians.
Israel has said Arafat can only leave Ramallah once the accused killers of an Israeli cabinet minister have been handed over to Israel. Palestinian police say they have arrested the head of the PLO faction that claimed responsibility for the October assassination.
Since announcing a truce Dec. 16, Arafat's security forces have arrested some militants, triggering clashes with the suspects' supporters. Israel has said the arrests were merely cosmetic and that the detained militants were often not being held.
Israeli Tanks Surround Arafat's HQ (Friday January 18)
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Two Israeli tanks and an armored personnel carrier parked outside Yasser Arafat's headquarters on Friday, confining the Palestinian leader to his office complex a day after a Palestinian gunman burst into a banquet hall and gunned down six Israelis.
Stepping up the pressure early Saturday, Israeli troops with heavy armor surrounded the Palestinian broadcasting building, Palestinian security sources said. The unprecedented restrictions came in retaliation for the first deadly attack on Israeli civilians in more than six weeks.
Israeli F-16 warplanes early Friday also razed a large Palestinian Authority government complex in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, killing a Palestinian policeman and injuring 61 officers and civilians.
Israel said it was turning up pressure on Arafat to go after Palestinian militants. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's adviser, Raanan Gissin, said Arafat was ``restricted to his quarters until he fulfills his obligations'' and that troops placed Arafat's headquarters under ``tight closure,'' though other Israeli officials said Arafat had not been told he couldn't leave the compound.
Before dawn Saturday, up to 12 tanks surrounded the hilltop broadcasting building, and Israeli soldiers entered the four-story complex, Palestinian security sources said. The building had been evacuated before the soldiers arrived, the sources said. The Israeli army declined to comment.
Israel has frequently accused the Palestinian Authority of using its television and radio facilities to broadcast inflammatory reports.
Arafat had been confined to Ramallah for the past few weeks, with Israel saying he can only travel once he arrests the assassins of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, but Friday's restrictions of his movement were unprecedented.
Arafat has complained that Israel's reprisals were part of a secret plan by Sharon to topple him. Israel's Cabinet has not made a decision to oust Arafat, but Sharon has called Arafat a bitter enemy and a terrorist.
Arafat remained secluded in his office Friday, even avoiding a walk across the courtyard of his compound to the mosque where he normally attends noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim week. Instead, he prayed with aides and security guards in an empty, carpeted room.
Palestinian security officials said Arafat skipped the walk to the mosque because he did not want to expose himself to Israeli view.
Two tanks and an armored personnel carrier were parked just a few yards from the entrance to the headquarters. Israeli bulldozers also piled earth across one of the four access roads to Arafat's compound, blocking it to traffic. Nearly two dozen tanks took up positions in about half of Ramallah, and troops searched the home of the Palestinian intelligence chief, Tawfik Tirawi.
At one point, about 4,000 Palestinians marched toward Arafat's office to protest the Israeli incursions and demand the release of suspected Palestinian militants held by the Palestinian Authority, including Ahmed Saadat, whose faction killed Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in October. ``Palestinian Authority, traitors, release the political prisoners,'' the crowd chanted.
About 200 marchers later threw stones at Israeli tanks. Troops fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live rounds. Three Palestinians were wounded by live fire, including one who was in serious condition.
Later Friday, about 400 Palestinians protesting the detentions tried to storm Arafat's compound, pelting the entrance with rocks, sticks and bottles.
The protests highlighted Arafat's dilemma. If he dismantles militant groups, as demanded by Israel and the United States, he risks widespread street violence. If he does not act, Israel will likely step up reprisals.
Since announcing a truce on Dec. 16, Arafat's security forces have arrested several militants, often triggering clashes with the suspects' supporters. This week's detention of Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, set off daily protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
After 16 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, there is growing dissatisfaction with Arafat's rule. The economy is in a shambles as a result of sweeping Israeli travel restrictions. Many Palestinians grumble about ongoing government corruption, while others complain the uprising against Israel brought nothing but hardship.
This week's bloody events began with the killing of a Palestinian militia leader - widely attributed to Israel - that triggered revenge attacks, including the shooting spree inside a banquet hall in the Israeli town of Hadera late Thursday.
In the banquet hall, about 180 guests were celebrating the bat mitzvah, or coming of age, of 12-year-old Nina Kardashova. The girl was dancing, surrounded by her family - who immigrated to Israel from Russia - when the gunman burst through the glass door, screamed in Arabic and opened fire.
Speakout: Israeli occupation is worst form of violence (January 18, 2002)
Never in my life have I seen such disregard for human life as I have seen toward the Palestinians by Israel. Having just returned from the West Bank and Gaza Strip on a month-long trip, I have a heavy heart.
I traveled to the illegally occupied territories of Palestine with four fellow members of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace. Our group joined with 320 other internationals to collectively form the International Solidarity Movement.
The purpose of ISM is to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians in actively yet nonviolently resisting the occupation by Israel, to serve as international monitors, and to become human shields when needed to protect the Palestinians from Israeli brutality.
There are no words to sufficiently explain the depth of suffering inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. Sadly, this suffering rarely, if ever, gets accurately portrayed by the media.
Americans are being cheated out of the truth concerning what is truly happening to the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. This lack of knowledge prevents most of us from reaching out in compassion to the Palestinians, a people who so desperately need it.
Each and every Palestinian lives under a constant state of punishment and oppression. Israel controls every aspect of a Palestinian's life. Their beloved homeland is a prison controlled by Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks. The Palestinians are virtually helpless to protect themselves against Israel's brutality. Much of their police force now operates out of tents.
Except for three miles out from the shores of Gaza strip, Palestinians are not allowed on the Mediterranean Sea. While Israeli settlers are allowed to walk down the street with M-16s, a Palestinian will be killed for having a gun.
Israelis attacking Palestinians are rarely punished, while Palestinians will be jailed, tortured or killed for attacking an Israeli. Under international law, an occupied people have the right to arm themselves to resist occupation. The media portrays any resistance by the Palestinians as terrorism, when the first and worst form of violence is the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.
Every step a Palestinian takes to try to better the terrible circumstances he lives in, is undermined or destroyed by Israel.
Europe donated $10 million to build the only Palestinian seaport in the Gaza Strip. This would have allowed the Palestinians to buy goods from other countries instead of paying inflated Israeli prices, and to export goods, bringing much needed money into their economy. Israel destroyed this seaport before it was even finished.
The runways of the airport in Gaza Strip have been destroyed. Palestinian land and water have been poisoned by the raw sewage coming from the illegal Israeli settlements. Wells and water pipelines have been intentionally damaged and destroyed.
The headquarters of organizations that teach Palestinians how to grow fruits and vegetables to feed their families have been destroyed over and over again. I could go on and on. These acts of destruction by Israel are not the acts of a nation that wants peace, they are acts of a nation that simply wants the Palestinians to disappear at any cost.
Though killing innocent people is never justified, the rage of the suicide bombers is. The rage of each and every Palestinian is justified.
If they nonviolently protest in the streets, they are shot at and dragged off to jail. If they organize a group to resist the occupation, it's labeled a terrorist organization. No matter what form of resistance the Palestinians use, they are beaten down.
Every human being is entitled to basic rights. Israel continues to grossly abuse the human rights of the Palestinians. As Americans we would never accept being treated with such disregard, and neither should the Palestinians.
Beth Daoud, a member of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace, is a Denver peace activist.
Israel vs. the Palestinians: blaming the victim (January 18, 2002)
Full coverage of the Middle East Conflict http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/World/Middle_East_Peace_Process/
5. PEACE WATCH FOR KASHMIR
Here are some of the latest developments in the Kashmir region. Please also keep this situation in mind during your meditations in the coming two weeks to help ensure that peace prevail there as well.
India Sees Pakistan Peace on Horizon (January 17)
WASHINGTON (AP) - India's defense minister said Thursday he believes that despite another terrorist attack blamed on militants in the disputed Kashmir province, the standoff between his country and Pakistan may be ``on the way to resolution.''
Fernandes, asked about a Kashmir bomb blast that killed one and injured 15, said: ``What was agreed (on security issues) with (former Pakistani Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif may not hold good with the establishment Pakistan has today.
``But against the backdrop of recent developments I have reason to believe sooner or later these issues will now be on the way to resolution,'' Fernandes said.
On Wednesday, India said it was open to dialogue with Pakistan and a Saturday speech by Pakistan's president, condemning terrorism, was ``path-breaking.'' India initially had given the speech a lukewarm response.
Powell Meets With Indian PM (Friday January 18)
NEW DELHI, India (AP) - After meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday he is very encouraged that India and Pakistan will be able to avoid armed conflict over Kashmir .
``We are on a path that will take us where we want to go,'' Powell told reporters as he wound up a visit to India after talks in Pakistan.
Powell cautioned that it will take further conciliatory steps before a dialogue can be achieved between the two nations.
He said it was important for both countries to moderate their rhetoric and to find ways to build confidence on the military front. However Powell indicated that India believes Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has yet to do enough to warrant New Delhi's taking concrete gestures toward Pakistan.
If Musharraf takes additional steps, ``then we can expect to see action on the part of the Indian government,'' Powell said. CLIP
Special Report -- Kashmir flashpoint: Appeal to safeguard rights in clampdown The rights of those suspected of religiously motivated violence must not be ignored, says Amnesty, commenting on reports of the arrests of more than 1,000 Islamists in Pakistan. Read extended coverage in OneWorld's Special Report, regularly updated with news, features, reports, analysis and opinion. CLIP
Many more news on Kashmir at this URL above.
In-depth coverage about Kashmir Dispute
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