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Enduring conflict ? the inspiring survival of Somalis through years of violence

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - Switzerland - Thu, 7 Feb 2013 10:10 GMT
Author: ICRC
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The extraordinary courage and resilience of ordinary Somalis through decades of conflict is being celebrated in a photo exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). Somalia – A Humanitarian Story (11 February to 15 March) is being organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) and the British Red Cross to mark 150 years since the birth of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. The years of violence since the Siad Barre regime collapsed in 1991 have killed thousands of Somalis and left many more wounded, disabled or unable to return to their homes. Many have been separated from loved ones for years. Humanitarian organisations have worked hand in hand with the Somali people to tackle the effects of civil war, vicious clan rivalry, warlord-ism, drought and hunger. Thousands of Somalis and a few hundred international staff have responded to the difficulties the country has faced. They have provided emergency food and medical care, but also supported local agriculture to reduce dependency and make communities resilient in the face of crises. “The Somali people are unique in the combination of conflict, disaster, governmental collapse and international isolation that they have endured,” said Geoff Loane, Head of Mission for the ICRC in the UK, who worked in Somalia during the early 1990s. “This is an opportunity to recognise the generosity of spirit that Somalis have shown in coping with their country’s woes.”   The exhibition starts with the work of the ICRC in the Horn of Africa in World War II, when it monitored the repatriation of defeated Italians. The ICRC's goal was to protect and assist victims of the conflict, just as it was when it returned for the Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1977. The ICRC established a permanent presence in 1982, and has been in Somalia ever since, mounting its largest ever relief operation between 1991 and 1994 to tackle the devastating famine that struck the country. It worked closely with the SRCS, and continues to do so. The SRCS has the greatest reach of any humanitarian organisation working in Somalia, and manages Mogadishu’s Keysaney Hospital, which opened in 1992. The exhibition explores the challenges for Keysaney staff of defying intimidation to deliver front-line care on an impartial basis. Rejecting claims of priority by armed groups, the medical staff have persuaded rival factions to let them treat patients on the basis of need, in a weapons-free environment.  

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