MOGADISHU, Somalia – This year’s most failed state has topped the list of most failed states every year since 2008: Somalia. Plagued by a lack of governance, security issues, food shortages, terrorism, piracy and extreme poverty, Somalia is one of the worst places in the world to be born.
At the root of Somalia’s myriad issues is its rampant instability. When Somalia president Siad Barre was overthrown by opposing clans in 1991, the Horn of Africa state was plunged into anarchy. Instead of government, Somalis had lawlessness and civil war. An internationally recognized government was not installed again until 2012.
And though an official government does once again exist in Somalia, the country’s security issues remain significant. Just this week, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a surge of African Union troops to Somalia to fight al-Shabab militants. Though the Islamist militant group was driven out of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, it still controls much of the southern region and contributes to tremendous regional instability.
Devastatingly, Somalia’s lawlessness and militant infighting worsened the effects of two famines, contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Official statistics have recently emerged shedding light on the Somali famine that lasted from 2010 to 2012: 260,000 people died, nearly five percent of the region’s population and 10 percent of its children; this on top of the Somali famine that struck in the early 1990’s that killed 220,000.
During both famines, militia infighting prevented aid from reaching the most vulnerable populations. In the most recent famine, Al Shabab prevented starving people from leaving the hardest hit areas.
The effects of the famine are still being felt: 16 percent of Somalian children are acutely malnourished, and 3.5 percent are severely so. One third of all children under the age of five are underweight.
In addition to its security and food shortage issues, Somalia also faces a bleak economy. The GDP per capita is a mere $600. The employment-to-population ratio for Somalia lingers around 50 percent.
Unsurprisingly, literacy rates are also unthinkably low: only 37.8 percent of the population over the age of 15 can read and write. Among women, only 25.8 percent are literate.
Children are in school for an average of only three years, with 50 percent of the child population contributing to the work force. Thousands of children in the city of Bosasso beg or perform menial tasks on the street to support their families. Many of them have stories like 12 year-old Abdullahi Said who says: “What I make from garabo and shining shoes is what I take home to help my mother feed us.” Said’s father died in 2009 therefore the preteen feels the pressure to take primary responsibility for his family.
The poverty in Somalia disproportionately affects its women and children in other ways as well. Only 14.6 percent of women have access to contraception thus the average woman in Somalia gives birth to six children. 1,000 of these mothers, however, die per 100,000 live births, a total of one in 12 women die from pregnancy-related causes.
Even worse, 101.9 children die per 1,000 live births. Of the children that survive childbirth, 180 out of 1,000 do not live to see the age of 5. One in 10 Somali children dies before his or her first birthday.
As such statistics imply, Somalia’s health situation is abysmal. Less than 30 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water. The country also has large numbers of unvaccinated children, thus vaccine-preventable diseases like polio and measles are prevalent. A lack of safe sanitation further contributes to the high occurrence of preventable diseases.
All these factors contribute to a life expectancy of only 51 years.
Given its rampant insecurity, incredible poverty, devastating lack of food and healthcare, Somalia is fighting an uphill battle even just to drop to second place on the most failed states ranking.
– Kelley Calkins