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Forgotten issues of Somalia

Australia’s wider community needs to put Somalia back on the radar, according to Australian NGOs. Derya Goren reports.

By Derya Goren | Muslimvillage | 29 May 2012

United Nations has officially declared the famine over but millions affected in Somalia are still in dire need of aid.

Several Sydney-based NGOs report that the decline of humanitarian enthusiasm in the community is a result of overshadowing by the Syrian crisis and problems in West Africa.

But Fatima Harrison, charity coordinator at Somali Organization Development Aid (SODA), urges the public not to “turn their backs” on Somalia.

“Because Somalia is no longer in the media and statistics report the famine to be over, people think that there is no longer a need,” she says.

SODA, established in 2006, distributed over 20 containers of non-perishable food items helping over 3,500 families not registered with the UN. These families do not receive relief aid and depend on SODA’s 25-30 kg survival food kit each week.

“There is a crisis and it’s hazardous, predominately affecting the women and children there,” says Harrison.

Somalia experienced one of the worst droughts in history during the second half of last year, threatening livelihoods in the millions and moulding livestock into dust. Famine struck and death rates sky-rocketed, leaving thousands of impoverished Somali refugees to undertake precarious treks to the largest camp in Daadab, Kenya, which houses close to 450,000 refugees.

-Malik Osman from the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency (HARDA) is a former Somali refugee himself and recently returned from a “depressing” journey into drought-stricken Somalia.

During his visit Osman visited Gaarisa, a place he called home for 10 days. He drove a three-hour journey from Garissa to Daadab daily to take part in an emergency aid program, where he says he encountered countless stories of pain, struggle and courage.

“One mother told me of how she walked from Qismayo to Dhobley (the border of Somalia and Kenya) for 15 days, losing three of her five children due to hunger,” Osman said.

“She explained that she did not have the energy to bury her children and left them on the side of the road.”

stresses the importance behind communities continuously supporting Somalis, as the drought is feared likely to return within the next few months.

“We should not be waiting for images of starving children to move us,” he says.

“The community needs to learn how to be more proactive rather than reactive.”

Last year HARDA collected over $200,000 for emergency aid, and partnered with Islamic Relief Australia (IR) – one of a handful of foreign aid agencies authorized to enter Somalia – to further raise funds and deliver much needed medical help inside the country.
Kuranda Seyit from IR, an organization that works towards long term sustainability, crisis management and capacity building, describes his visit to Somalia as a “tragic predicament” saying its state is somewhat similar to Afghanistan. He says the lawlessness and fighting between clans and warlords in the region have made aid delivery very difficult, leaving thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) starving and suffering. More than 200 IR staffs are based in Mogadishu, Kenya, on the Somali border and in the IDP camps.

“Without IR’s presence in Somalia, there would be a lot more suffering,” he said.

But despite the ebbing of donations since the media hype died down, Seyit believes there is much that can be done.

It is only a matter of reminding donors and appealing for help for the people of Somalia,” he says.

“Long-term sustainability is a major concern as there is no employment and many of the recipients are cattle herders or farmers and have no means to continue their livelihood.”
“Some had died, gone to look for work or had lost their sanity,”
Seyit adds.

Last year, IR Australia raised $500,000 alone.

Braden Blyde from The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Australia agrees that “the situation in Somalia remains critical” as hundreds of thousands still remain without the essentials of life – food and water.

During the Australian Government’s dollar-for-dollar matching program last year, ADRA’s Australian donors “gave extremely generously in 2011” and as a result they’re “funding a project, implemented by ADRA Somalia in excess of AU$1.5 million”.

But like Harrison from SODA, Blyde notes the change in donation rates.

“Despite donors contributing to the response, the numbers have certainly decreased since the end of 2011.”

“The response can’t continue without money,” he adds.

“Without these, death and disease are a far too common result.”

SODA is currently in talks with other NGOs to build a “safe village” for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

We are not only about feeding the people, but aim to help restore hope by helping them claim their life back,” Harrison said.

“But this can’t happen without continuous community support.”



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