• Short Summary

    INTRODUCTION: The great economic gap between the world's rich and poor countries will be spotlighted on Thursday (22 October) at a two-day summit meeting in Mexico.

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    MOGADISHU, 1981. GV Mogadishu city streets directing traffic (2 shots)
    GV Somalia Commercial Savings Bank
    GV Dilapidated building in city slums with children outside

    Background: INTRODUCTION: The great economic gap between the world's rich and poor countries will be spotlighted on Thursday (22 October) at a two-day summit meeting in Mexico. Twenty-two leaders from industrial nations and the developing world, gathered at the holiday resort of Cancun, will discuss the inequalities that divide their peoples. The world's poorest countries, concentrated in black Africa and Asia, are looking for a breakthrough on energy and food issues during this North-South dialogue. One of the countries in most urgent need is Somalia, in the Horn of Africa.

    SYNOPSIS: Mogadishu, the Somali capital -- the face of a bustling modern city. But the country's legacy of under-development is never far away. Years of border fighting with Ethiopia, a severe drought and a vast influx of refugees from the battle-torn areas has caused a 30 per cent drop in Somalia's revenue and a serious lack of foreign exchange.

    It's the children who suffer most. For their survival, Somalia has depended on relief aid ti's received from Western governments and voluntary organisations. The country's resources are strained. Its food exports and production have been falling while its imports have been rising.

    Somalia's economy is bases mainly on the rising of enough livestock by small farmers and nomadic herdsmen. About 70 per cent of Somalia's people are nomadic farmers. They earn most of the country's foreign exchange from exports of meat and live animals and province work for most of the working population. But the nation's agricultural development is hampered by a shortage of skilled manpower.

    Most of the nation's sheep and goats are exported to Saudi Arabia, but the drought has caused pastures to deteriorate rapidly. Half the nation's own food needs have to be imported, much of it in the form of aid.

    Camels -- there are five million of them in the country -- provide the transport vitally needed in these remote areas. The nomads and the animals share watering stations built by the government.

    This poor nomadic settlement is like hundreds of others in Somalia, some better off than others. Six families live here. They own camels, chickens and some goats, but many of these are struck down by disease. Children between the age of six and 10 attend a Koranic school, but there is no further education available. And there are no medical families in the area.

    Somalia's critical condition worsens as the war with Ethiopia lingers on. Bombing raids along the disputed border by Ethiopian planes in June left devastation, a total of 30 people reported dead and 53 injured. Sporadic fighting between Soviet-backed Ethiopian troops and guerrillas of the Western Somalia Liberation Front has continued since Ethiopia won the Ogaden battle three years ago: the Somalia say attacks on Ethiopian targets were carried out by Liberation Front guerrillas and no regular Somali troops were involved. The United States has agreed to bolster Somalia's defences as long as the Army takes no part in the Ogaden battles.

    Another war -- that between Iran and Iraq -- caused a petrol shortage in Somalia this year and seriously disrupted the supply of food to hundreds of thousands of refugees -- a further setback at a time when essential food stocks were running very low. Now these relief supplies are at last getting through.

    Twenty of the world's poorest countries are in Africa, wrecked by drought in recent years and faced with overwhelming numbers of refugees. The central issue at Mexico is how the rich countries can help the poor. Most of them, like Somalia, want more direct aid ....and soon.
    Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Prospects at the Cancun summit for a new economic order that would favour the poor are reported to be clouded by the attitudes of the rich countries -- principally the United States -- which ace serious budgetary problems of their own. For the 31 countries defined as least developed, discussion on reforming the international monetary system and stimulating world trade is secondary to the immediate need to feed their people and meet their minimum energy requirements.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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