Is There Anything I Can do about Tragedy and Famine in Somalia?
The United Nations has officially declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia. A severe draught in this area of Africahas prompted this declaration, the first in 27 years. If you have not seen pictures on CNN, it deserves your attention. After 2 years of no rainfall, hundreds of thousands are attempting to walk to refugee camps in northern Kenyaand southern Ethiopia. Somalis are arriving in camp each day having walked weeks to find help, and thousands have died already, most of them children. The U.N. estimates that 10 million people are on the verge of starvation.
An estimated 20 million people living in the Horn of Africa have depended on the nomadic or pastoral way of life for centuries: as water and grain dry up in one area, the herds are moved to further pastures allowing them to adapt to the extreme weather conditions in this area of the world. This ensures a continual supply of milk, meat and other livestock products. In recent decades, however, vast areas of the Horn have been acquired by agriculture and large-scale commercial farms, reducing the available grazing area for nomadic herds and reducing the products harvested from the herds, thereby contributing to the spread of the famine.
Adding to the chaos of the situation, Somaliahas been without a national government since 1991, after the overthrow of President Barre, and an al-Qaeda affiliated group called Al-Shabab, which has controlled a large part of Somalia, had imposed a ban on foreign aid agencies in 2009, but has recently allowed limited access. This has made it difficult to get humanitarian aid to the areas in which it is so desperately needed. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for Somalia, more than30% of children in the country are malnourished, and four children out of every 10,000 are dying daily. Sonia Zambakides from Save The Children Foundation remarked sadly that she was talking to some mothers of babies who appeared to be nine months to a year old, and the mothers stated the ages of the children were 3 and 4 years old. They were tiny.
You can help in a small way to provide relief to the Somali people. There are many organizations who work to provide clean water, food and medicine to those who need it the most. Contact your local Red Cross or 703-206-6000 (National Headquarters) to get a list of reputable agencies you can donate to. The American economy is bad, it’s true, but if each of us gave just one dollar per person, it would be $308 million dollars toward that effort. Doctors without Borders are calling for volunteers. One straw won’t make a heap, but it could be the last straw that “breaks the camel’s back”. Enough people can make a difference, working together. If you really want to help, don’t hold back. Find a way to follow that urging to help others.
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