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article imageSomali-Canadians set prioritized famine response plan Special

By Farid Abdulhamid     Aug 22, 2011 in World
Toronto - Concerned Somali-Canadians in Toronto converged at the Alliance Neighbourhood Services on Jane Street on the evening of August 17th for a community consultation meeting to map out an effective response plan for the ongoing famine in Somalia.
Called by Aran Somali-Canadian Relief, stakeholders from various organizations strategized on how to formulate an operational response for the ongoing crisis as well as build viable partnerships with credible organizations in the regions of Somalia hardest hit by the famine.
Attention focused on the Somali map dotted with regions targeted for priority action. During the gathering, five famine struck regions were designated as priority zones that require urgent help from the Somali-Canadian Diaspora. These include Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Middle Jubba and Hiiraan where the severity of famine is classified in that order. Reports indicate that 30,000 Somali children have died in the famine zone. The Lower Shabelle and Mogadishu areas are also affected. The major problem in Mogadishu is the increased influx of people affected by famine who have been flocking to the restive capital.
“The case of Bay is particularly troubling as this area was the epicentre of the 1991-92 famine, where the region’s capital, Baidhabo, was dubbed the city of death with the famine of that period taking 300 lives each day,” said Abdifatah Maroyare, co-ordinator for the Centre for Youth Development and Mentoring Services that provides academic, social and recreational supports for at risk youth. In the ongoing crisis, 100,000 people displaced by the famine in the hardest hit areas have found their way to recently established camps in the Mogadishu area.
Abdifatah noted that “it is important for Aran to continue with its outreach activities and maintain contact with among other groups, the faith community where fundraising has been going on. The Dundas Square public outreach campaign was a successful event and Aran should build on such initiatives”.
Participants at the meeting noted that the people trapped in the Al-Shabab controlled famine zone are the most oppressed communities in Somalia and progressive forces should therefore stand up for the rights of these people and fight against injustices visited upon them in what is essentially a man-made famine.
In the wider context, it was observed that it has been difficult for aid to reach people in Al-Shabab controlled regions where aid agencies are banned and in Ogaden region, which is under a blockade by the Ethiopian regime.
Participants at the Toronto community consultation meeting to discuss the Somali famine.
Participants at the Toronto community consultation meeting to discuss the Somali famine.
Photo: Ogaal Radio, 88.9FM
According to forum participants, the Mogadishu area is also in crisis. Although Mogadishu has water wells and government exists there, it has recently experienced heavy rainfall where the outbreak of cholera and other water-borne diseases are a major risk factor that can impact negatively on the health of people housed in makeshift shelters in the surrounding camps.
“The hardest hit areas should be the priority for famine relief. It is in these areas where people are dying in large numbers, where people’s livestock have been wiped out by the drought and where weak mothers are forced to abandon their children” said Hassan “Karate”, anchor of Ogaal Radio, 88.9FM adding that “In the absence of external help, the strategy here is for Somalis to help their folks who are suffering. Whatever Somali people can bring in terms of resources, expertise, fundraising, media exposure etc should form part of a cause inspired by self-help initiatives. The young generation has been doing an excellent work on this front and should continue to double their efforts.”
Suad Aimad, an organizer with Aran, said that “Aran has brought people together since 1994 for the purpose of delivering aid to Somalia. The community consultation meeting is meant to map out a plan for an expanded humanitarian response especially in priority regions while working in partnership with like-minded organizations”.
Dahir Galbeti, a community developer, underscored the need to have an effective partner on the ground.
“We need to partner with a local organization inside Somalia that can be trusted with logistics and overall delivery of aid” Said Dahir.
Suad said that Aran has people on the ground and informed the gathering that “Aran’s President has left Kenya for the Bay region. Aran has reports from the ground- from places like Hiiraan, Bay and Gedo etc.”
Aran has been monitoring the situation on the ground closely.
“We have reports from Bay, Bakool, Hiiraan and Mogadishu that we would share with donors. We need to prioritize along the 5 mentioned high priority famine areas. No one is in the Bay and Bakool area due to blockade by Al-Shabab. Even the media says that these are places where urgent aid should be taken. Our plan is to set out priorities that would make the delivery of aid accessible to the worst hit areas. ” said Hassan Sheikh, Aran’s relief co-ordinator who maintains a daily telephone contact with people on the ground in the Bay and Bakool regions.
Participants at the Toronto community consultation meeting.
Participants at the Toronto community consultation meeting.
Photo:Ogaal Radio, 88.9FM
It was observed that Turkey, a major contributor to famine relief in Somalia as well as Saudi Arabia, U.A.E and Kuwait, are among the countries that have delivered aid to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. While these efforts are laudable, participants said it is time for Somali-Canadians to do their part by delivering aid supplies directly to areas designated as priority regions inside Somalia.
“The youth are significant contributors to the relief cause and we would greatly rely on their efforts. We need to distribute aid equally to the 5 or 6 worst affected areas. We call for an independent delivery of aid while relying on credible partners on the ground. We need to take humanitarian aid to the hinterland where it is most needed” said Abdi Hashised, the Executive Director of the Jane Alliance Neighbourhood Services.
In its ongoing efforts to establish a solid presence on the ground, Aran will soon send a representative to Mogadishu and other affected areas to assess the situation on the ground. The representative will gather information from people in Mogadishu who arrive from priority regions. While in Somalia, the travelling member would update Aran on regular basis. This will help the organization formulate effective response plans and lay the foundation for an extended action on the ground.
For more information, Aran Somali-Canadian Relief can be reached on the following phone numbers:
Hassan Sheikh (416) 837-1948, Suad Aimad (647) 703-7229.
More about Somalia, Aran SomaliCanadian Relief, Somalia Famine, Somali Canadians, Famine
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