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Part of the current situation is that, as famine spreads, refugee camps are now overflowing and mothers who leave home and migrate to camps are forced to try to settle in makeshift accommodations at growing distances from the facility of refuge. The children suffer more and the women are more vulnerable to abuses. The UK Guardian reports children are being secretly abandoned at the facility after mothers are turned away to try to settle elsewhere.
Somalia has been without a functional government for so long (since 1991) that, tragically and unfortunately, their society has come to a continual cycle of crisis and struggle. It's difficult to remember a time when Somalia was not this way, but it is important to acknowledge that at one time, it was at least stable, and relatively prosperous.
Run by the iron fisted Siad Barre for decades in the post colonial era, Somalia's government benefited from generous foreign aid from both the United States and the USSR. Barre successfully played these two sides against each other and pocketed billions in the process. Since his death, the country has devolved into battling factions and warlords, and an arms and drug trade that is truly frightening in scale.
I would think it very important to emphasize with your students the Somalian culture pre-crisis. They were born long after most of her citizens lost hope in the nation, people and future. Some validation of ther heritage that is independent from tragedy could be very grounding and helpful to them.
I think post 5 has the right idea - if you are working with students/families who are Somalian refugees, you have your primary source of information right there. If you can build a caring, supportive relationship with these individuals, with time they may be able to give you insights into the situation there that will probably be heartbreaking and illuminating at the same time. My suspicion is that those of us on the outside looking in have no way of beginning to imagine what conditions must actually be like in Somalia.
I must admit I don't know that much about Somalia, but it is clear that Somalia is a country governed by chaos and anarchy at the moment. As #2 points out, we can probably look to colonialism as being one of the root causes for the reasons why Somalia is the way that it is today. As to whether the current regime is able to actually enact change, it appears doubtful, as the many manifestations of violence indicates, from Somalian pirates to a general lack of law and order. If you have students who are perhaps refugees from Somalia, why don't you ask them to teach you and others about what has happened and is happening, if it not too traumatic for them?
To me, Somalia is a lot like Afghanistan. It's a place that was never really one country until it was made that way by colonialism. It's a place where Cold War interests poured weapons and such, allowing a few people to become powerful warlords. These warlords made it so that there could really be no legitimate central government. Into this void stepped the Islamists. They have been able to thrive by bringing in some semblance of order and by offering some vision (distasteful as that vision is to us) of how the country can move forward. So now we have a situation where we are trying to make a country where there never was a country and where warlords and Islamists hold the power...
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