15 Oct 2009

Filming in Mogadishu – the world’s most dangerous city

Hats off, everyone, to Ugo Borga, Matteo Fagotto and Giampaolo Musumeci. They are the brave team of Italian journalists behind tonight’s rare and exclusive glimpse of life inside the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Giampaolo is the cameraman. If his shots aren’t the steadiest, you’ll have to forgive him. You don’t hang about in Mogadishu, surely the most dangerous city for journalists anywhere in the world.

Pull out a camera tripod, and the locals might assume it is for the purposes of mounting a mortar and therefore shoot you first.

The statistics never cease to shock me. 1.3 million Somalis are internally displaced. Up to 3.6 million depend on foreign aid to survive.

What is almost as shocking is that a humanitarian crisis of this immensity is so very rarely reported here in the UK, though Channel 4 has been trying this year to go where others dare not.

Our investigation into the diversion of aid supplies has prompted an official investigation by the World Food Programme. Britain is refusing to commit any further money to WFP Somalia until that investigation is complete, though the UK announced an extra £4m in alternative aid last week.

In Brussels in April, foreign donors pledged over $200m in support for Somalia’s so-called government, though tonight’s film suggests very little of that has arrived. Issues of transparency and accountability dog every attempt to help Somalia, though ministers in Mogadishu have employed the accountancy firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers to demonstrate that foreign aid won’t be siphoned off.

One note of good news: the journalist who filmed all the harrowing and dangerous bits of our WFP investigation – my friend Jamal Osman – has been nominated for a Rory Peck award. These awards are for bravery in the field.

Jamal only used a camera for the first time about a year ago. And given that two of our British colleagues – Kate Peyton and Martin Adler – have been tragically killed in Somalia, Jamal’s nomination is completely and utterly deserved.