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For Somalis, Respite From Hunger Means A Chance To Regain Independence With AM-Somalia Rdp,

December 12, 1992

For Somalis, Respite From Hunger Means A Chance To Regain Independence With AM-Somalia Rdp, Bjt

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Abdi Gabani Osman remembers his last good meal as if it were yesterday, even though it was 12 months ago: millet and milk, shared with his wife and five children on the peaceful farm where they raised camels, sheep and pigs.

Not a king’s banquet, but a feast compared to the porridge and biscuits Osman lives on now in a Mogadishu refugee camp. The best part, says Osman, was he didn’t have to stand in line like a schoolchild to get food.

Watching the armored personnel carriers rumbling along the streets and the low-flying Marine choppers, hundreds of thousands of Somalis like Osman wait for the day Operation Restore Hope gives them back their self-sufficiency.

On his farm in the town of Walawein, southwest of Mogadishu, Osman recalled not having to depend on others. Now he must rely on foreign charity.

Relief agencies say ending this cycle of dependence is a key to making their efforts successful. One proposed mission is to supply refugees, mainly farmers, with clothes, shelter, grain and tools so they can return to their homes and care for themselves.

United Nations spokesman Ian MacLeod said the relief workers hope to get ″many hundreds of thousands of people″ to return to their homes before the spring rainy season in March and April. This would give them time to plant crops for the July harvest, a major step toward ending their need for donated food.

The U.S. troops who swooped across the city on Wednesday have made clear they won’t be moving into places like Osman’s hometown for some time, until they are sure the clan miltias that drove out the Somalis won’t attack them.

It’s a situation that frustrates relief workers who have lost most of their food to looters and are relying upon the Marines to stop the thievery.

It’s more frustrating for the millions of Somalis who once lived independent lives. For them, the worst part of Somalia’s war and famine is not necessarily the loss of their homes, but the loss of pride that went with it.

Osman says he was not a rich man, but he considered himself prosperous enough before the war. With his five sons, he grew millet and raised animals. His wife, Halimo Aden, prepared meals in their thatched hut, and sometimes they slaughtered one of their animals to eat.

But Osman, 45, said the family was constantly plagued by thievery by armed mobs. So like millions of other Somalis, they abandoned the farm and set out across the parched land in search of a safe haven.

They found it at a refugee camp and feeding center run by the Irish relief agency GOAL and the International Committee of the Red Cross in south Mogadishu.

Each day, the center feeds 2,300 people a meal of Unimix - a combination of beans, oil, flour, sugar, and cereal - and protein biscuits.

Osman said his own food from his farm was far better. But for now, he said, there was no choice but to eat what was offered.

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