Amina Shakir (not her real name) fled the drought and famine in Somalia for a better life in Kenya. But she did so illegally, placing her faith in the hands of a criminal network headed by Mukhalis, or agents in Swahili. In the end her faith was misplaced as she was “sold” into employment upon finally reaching Kenya.
But Shakir is not the only one illegally crossing the border into Kenya. Natural disasters, armed conflict and famine devastating the Horn ofAfrica have caused an increase in human smuggling and trafficking in the region.
Shakir’s journey took her from a collection point in Somalia to a transaction point in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. She and several other girls made the over 1,000-kilometre journey in a truck under the guard of five men. “I was not alone,” Shakir said. “Other girls were in the truck as well, one man was also there. Our handlers assured us of our safety till we get to our destination … I felt I was in safe hands.”
But when she arrived in Eastleigh estate, a Nairobi suburb that has become an international business centre, she was sold into employment. She now works as a shop attendant for her “buyer”.
(Peter Kahare for The Guardian)
This new episode premiered last night on Al Jazeera English at 2230 GMT.
In part one of a two-part series, Fault Lines goes to Mogadishu to see the impact of Somalia’s famine, and asks if US policies have contributed to the disaster.
The worst drought in 60 years has thrown some 13 million people across the Horn of Africa into crisis.
In Somalia, ravaged by two decades of conflict, the consequences have been disastrous. For over six months, aid agencies on the ground sounded the alarm that a major drought and famine was on the horizon.
Then in July and August, the world watched and international aid agencies scrambled as tens of thousands of Somalis fled famine and fighting in the devastated Southern part of the country, controlled by the armed group al-Shabab. And they continued to flee - to the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia - in the following months, when the world seemed to lose interest.
Tens of thousands of Somalis have died and the UN has warned that three quarters of a million more are at risk of dying before the end of the year.
Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government, the Obama administration, and the United Nations have all blamed the anti-government group al-Shabab for restricting international aid operations in the areas they control. But is al-Shabab the only reason a drought and food crisis has turned into a deadly famine?
In the first of a two-part series examining the US response to drought and hunger in the Horn of Africa, Fault Lines travels to Mogadishu to meet refugees who have fled to the most war-ravaged city in the world to escape a worse fate, and the aid and medical workers struggling to help them. We examine the legacy of US engagement in Somalia and its efforts to address the current crisis.
Has aid in this region of the world become politicised? And has Washington’s pre-occupation with terrorism in the Horn of Africa contributed to the deadly consequences of this disaster?
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