Friday, September 19, 2008

Grinding Poverty Leads to Tragedy in Somalia

Thirty-five Somali corpses washed up onto the shores of Yemen recently according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, a medical charity agency. Another 29 Somalis are missing and feared to be dead. The dead Somalis had paid smugglers to take them across the Gulf of Aden in hopes of finding a better life.

The brutality of the smugglers was described by some of the 120 desperate survivors of the trek. Before the Somalis were forced to swim to shore at gunpoint, they described how they had gasoline splashed on them, and then were taunted with lighters. They also described beatings and torture as they desperately tried to escape on boats.

“We did not receive food, nor water; some of us were placed in the hull; several people died because of asphyxia; some others were thrown overboard, among them two children,” a survivor told MSF.

In Somalia, located in the Horn of Africa, there is currently no central government and the state is mainly concentrated in the hands of a private militia. The Islamic government that existed in Somalia was overthrown by a U.S.-backed invasion by Ethiopia. Somalia also saw bombs fall on it recently, killing hundreds, and done in the name of the U.S. “war on terror.”

The infant mortality rate in Somalia is higher than 110 babies dying per 1,000 born. Less than 40 percent of Somali citizens can read. Life expectancy is below fifty years of age.

The few jobs that are available in Somalia include those of the lowest-paid phone operators on the planet and being a servant at a hotel. The vast majority of Somalis get by attempting to grow food in the unrewarding climate and selling scrap metal. (CIA World Factbook)

According to a United Nations refugee agency, an estimated 60 boats brought more than 1,700 Somalis to Yemen last month, almost triple the number for the same period last year. (

— Caleb T. Maupin

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