Minister: "Somalia needs remedy, not band-aid"

Published: September 29, 2011

Ahmet Aidid İbrahim Somali education minister

Somali Education Minister Ahmet Aidid İbrahim, in an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman on Thursday in İstanbul, said that drought-stricken Somalia needs a sustainable remedy from the international community, not a mere band-aid. “My country has been struggling for twenty years because of civil war and a lack of law and order,” İbrahim said of the dismal conditions in Somalia, where there has been no central governmental control over most of the country’s territory since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991.
İbrahim said that the security threat is one that must be dealt with immediately. “We cannot have food assistance and a general recovery if we do not have security and law,” he said. The drought, the worst of its kind in the last 60 years, has killed 29,000 children under the age of five and left 12 million people on the brink of starvation. “It is not supposed to be like this — people dying because of a lack of food,” İbrahim said. “For 25 years we hosted the largest number of refugees but now we are the victims. We are suffering,” he said.
More than 500,000 families from across Somalia have journeyed to the country’s capital of Mogadishu in search of essentials like water, food and shelter. “People come, and they come with absolutely nothing. No clothing, no belongings, not even shoes,” İbrahim said.
Food aid has reached about 1.85 million Somalis, nearly half of the people in need, according to a UN report released on Tuesday. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that four million Somalis remain in crisis, and that 750,000 people are at risk of dying within the next four months if they are not provided with sufficient aid.
İbrahim warned about future disasters: “If there is no rain in the next few months, we will find ourselves in the same disaster. We need to look long-term now.”
He also expressed his gratitude for the international community’s support in the recent months, but he said it is not enough. “What we are getting now [from the international community] is a short-term fix, but what we need is a long-term answer,” İbrahim said.
“We need sustainable assistance, not just food,” he said. The solution to Somalia must be rooted in infrastructure, according to İbrahim.
“Regarding education, most of the infrastructure has been demolished. Those who can afford it go to private schools, but the majority of Somali people do not have access to education. This is what we need — rehabilitating all of the schools, standardizing the curriculum, and also opening new schools — until we can do it ourselves,” he said.
Only 10 percent of children are enrolled in primary school in Somalia, according to sources.
Whereas the international community has been rather slow in coming to one of the world’s poorest and most violent countries’ aid, İbrahim said Turkey has been there from the beginning. İbrahim elaborated: “We are grateful for our neighboring countries and the international community, but it is not enough for us to stand on our own feet again. This is why we are asking the Turkish people and its government for help. International organizations like the UN have helped, of course, but their help is not sustainable. Turkey’s help is for today and the future.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached out to world nations to immediately act in Somalia to end starvation during his address at the UN General Assembly last week.
İbrahim, who escorted the Somali students in their quest for a quality education on Wednesday, expressed his immense gratitude for the Turkish public, charity organizations and government in helping “Somalia stand back on its feet.”
Turkish charities like Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), Red Crescent (Kızılay) and Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There?) have provided humanitarian aid, including medicine, food and health services, to internally displaced persons (IDPs), İbrahim said. But Turkey has also launched more sustainable, long-term initiatives like training Somali medical staff and opening a hospital. İbrahim added that Turkey has promised to open a school in Somalia in the future.
The Ministry of Health invited UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with many Turkish NGOs, to offer their feedback on a soon-to-be-released action plan for sustainable health aid to Somalia on Tuesday. And Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has worked with NGOs to outline a long-term plan for aid to Somalia, which included Turkish charity Kimse Yok Mu’s bringing 309 students to Turkey to be educated.
“Turkey has offered up to 700 scholarships so that our students can come here and have a high-quality education. We hope that they will return to Somalia to lead our country,” İbrahim said.
In other words, this is a big deal for Somalia.
İbrahim said that crowds of people — family, friends, government leaders and the general public — came to see the Somali students off. “You cannot imagine the feelings of the Somali people. These students are the pride, the light and the future for us,” he said.
Erdoğan’s visit to Somalia last month was a historic milestone, İbrahim said. “When the Turkish prime minister came to the country to visit, he opened the minds of the generous Turkish people to donate to the Somali people. That has meant so much. Now people are surviving. Now people are learning. It [Erdoğan’s visit] also opened the doors for other leaders of the world to come to Somalia and discuss its health and education issues. So we are very thankful for the prime minister, his visit and his initiatives,” he said.
İbrahim added that, despite the outpouring of aid and support, Somalia’s problems are far from over. “There are still large issues — security, food, health, education. After rehabilitation, hopefully the Somali people will be able to take over,” he said.
With the outreach of the Turkish government and organizations Somalia has witnessed thus far, İbrahim said he is sure that a significant, positive difference will be evident a year from now.
İbrahim expressed his especially deep appreciation for the Turkish public, “some of who have modest incomes and reached out to us, despite having to support their own families.”
“The Turkish people are now blessed in our hearts. I cannot find the words to express our feelings of gratitude to the Turkish people. We hope they will continue to assist us until we can support ourselves,” İbrahim said.

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