Our Perspectives

Recovery and hope after Somalia's deadliest attack

Farah Abdessamad, Programme Specialist, UNDP Somalia

Mariam from the Somali Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs smiles but nods gravely when asked if she was scared. When the powerful blasts occurred on Saturday 14 October in Mogadishu, it was a working day for government employees of the Federal Ministries of Planning, Investment and Economic Development (MoPIED) and Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Both ministries are near the sites of the first and second explosions that devastated Mogadishu that Saturday, explosions which claimed over 400 lives and injured hundreds more.  

As part of a United Nations Development Programme disaster response team led by Deputy Country Director David Akopyan, I inspect the outside perimeter wall of the Ministry.  Vertical and horizontal cracks on the walls attest to likely structural damage. The windows are all shattered, the frames distorted into contorted shapes. Pieces of tinted glass litter the entrance floor, cracking under our careful steps.

Inside, it is a post-earthquake scene with collapsed office furniture, piles of debris, a series of more visible cracks lining the walks, and a lingering impression that time stopped ten days ago. In the main conference room below a ceiling painted with the Somali flag, half-drunk bottles of water remain where government officials left them in a hurry, running from danger. A colourful banner showing the global Sustainable Development Goals still hangs at the place where a dedicated unit spearheading the implementation of the newly adopted National Development Plan used to work. I.T. equipment has also been damaged by the shock wave of the blast. An annex once donated by the European Union is beyond repair.

Amongst the victims of the 14 October attacks in Mogadishu were government employees, families, street vendors, Saturday pedestrians and citizens going for errands, including our own colleague Faiza Sheikh Mohamed, a mother of four school-aged children. I take a moment to remember her and the others affected by the tragedy while heavy rain comes through the empty windows. This was the single deadliest attack that Mogadishu ever experienced. Faiza was hope and warmth, very much embodying the soul of Somalia that is rising from a legacy of a perceived failed state. While it remains a fragile country, Somalia has also made formidable state building and stability gains in recent years. To keep such gains, Somalis need our collective support, to recover and then to rebuild, now more than ever.  

In partnership with the Somali Federal Government, UNDP has commissioned United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) UNOSAT imagery in the aftermath of the blast, to assess structural damage for rubble removal. We have started a rapid needs assessment to further estimate livelihoods loss and ways for the neighbourhood to get back on its feet, focusing on women, youth and those injured. UNDP stands ready to support community recovery with our Somali and international partners - to realise our Faiza’s dream for a peaceful and prosperous Somalia.

UNDP Deputy Country Director David Akopyan discusses structural damage and recovery work with government officials © UNDP Somalia/Farah Abdessamad
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) UNOSAT satellite imagery showing destroyed and damaged structures within the 14th October blast area © UNITAR

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