Knowing the full implications of starvation, civil strife, water shortages and repeated violence, pressuring awareness of the crisis in Ogaden is important. Awareness demands acute attention to the full social costs of the crisis in the everyday lives of the people of this violent conflict zone. This entails encouraging a sensitive response to the health needs of the troubled population.

Responsibility to restore life and dignity

The long-term consequences of health problems affecting internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other tragic victims of conflict deserve great consideration by all relevant authorities, aid providers and the international community. Restoring the lives and livelihoods of the people trapped in the conflict zone must entail supplying essential information to both citizens and all parties to the conflict, to inform them of the severest issues affecting civilian lives. It is incumbent on all parties to the conflict to take note of the consequences of illness, starvation and other health issues brought upon the people by the crisis.

Much of the blame for the crisis can be laid on the Ethiopian Army, who in 2007 launched their brutal military crackdown in Ogaden. Like the walls of the notorious detention centers, the media blackout in the region belies a history of repeated war crimes and violations of human rights by Ethiopian regime.

Comprehensive understanding of health and treatment needs

Amidst the ongoing allegations of human rights abuses by the regime, vast numbers of Somali refugees and those adversely affected by the sustained independence struggle have become victims of manifold threats to health and sustainable living. It is acknowledged by experts that Ogaden’s fragility must capture the attention of the region’s humanitarian donors. This must influence the nature and quantity of aid provided to the sensitive region.

With 240,000 Somalian refugees in Ethiopia, the humanitarian crisis is growing in the Ogaden region. Unfortunately, the sensitive region is receiving only low levels of aid from negligent, self-interested Western powers and self-promoting NGOs. Presently, these agencies are often more concerned with providing succor to the Ethiopian regime rather than following their responsibility to address Ogaden’s special vulnerability.

After the 1997 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea came to its end in 2000, economic assistance failed to reach the Ogaden region, allegedly due to its comparative low poverty rates and population density. Other factors specified were the inaccessibility of the region and the high level of violence, deterring international actors. Continued catastrophic conflict events, inadequate flows of aid, and unrelenting poverty in the Ogaden region cry out for a decisive change in aid policy to address the health threats to all.

Averting a downward spiral

It is feared that the conflict in Ogaden may lead to a “downward spiral”. Violence deters the entry of humanitarian donors to the region, and this lack of aid is itself causing a cycle that causes the economic and political conditions responsible for triggering yet more violence. The aid being moved to the regime fails to alleviate the problem of shortages of critical aid and medical supplies, and Ogaden residents grow increasingly alienated by the corrupt handling of aid by regime officials. Conflict areas fail to receive aid, as aid flows instead into strongholds of the regime that are not as desperately in need of it. The careful reevaluation of the purpose of all development and humanitarian aid provisions must emphasize the goal of conflict reduction and a supreme focus on the region-specific issues of Ogaden. This reevaluation of the medical support to the region must address problems arising from inequality, and take a more active stance on resolving the highly localized and specific issues to Ogaden. Physical and psychological ailments can grip the populations of conflict zones, along with addiction to harmful substances, which in turn can harshly affect loved ones and present them with challenges in finding the appropriate level of care. Thus, all shortages must be addressed by responsible individuals and authorities.

Human rights, dignity and health are always connected

Human rights, the restoration of dignity to a population, and the provision of medical supplies cannot be separated. A component of this can be training and education. Training programs can inevitably aid a population, and connect the right authorities with the locals to build resilience in the face of the tensions and critical shortages of supplies sowed by the regime. It is a political inevitability that harsh martial control imposed by the regime undermines the regime’s own legitimacy. In light of this, the regime will continue to bear primary responsibility for the cycle of instability until it welcomes prospects for peace by attending the population’s humanitarian needs.



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