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Somali diaspora refuses to stay silent over famine

March 18, 2017 at 11:24 am

Image: Somali Faces

Halima’s frail body looked away from the camera. She is from the Sool region in Somalia and is living through the country’s famine. “I had 45 goats before the drought, now I only have nine left, and they are dying in front of our eyes,” she said. She tried to continue, but was too numb to finish her story. Unable to cry, her sombre voice expressed guilt at the fact her children are hungry, leaving herself and her husband powerless.

Within 48 hours of famine being declared in Somalia, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire announced that over 100 people had died from hunger and diarrhoea. Last week, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said that the famine in Somalia is the worst humanitarian crisis since the foundation of the UN; though the world is watching in ignorance as hunger haunts the unheard cries of children and as death indiscriminately looms over civilians.

Conditions in Somalia are increasingly worsening. The climate is at its driest since the 1950s, and now half of the Somali population need aid. Somalis have labelled the famine as the “lagamalito”, which means “the harshest” in Somali.

The international community is silent. If anything, there is a larger question in place of whether the international community is making matters worse for civilians in Somalia.

On Friday, the White House Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney promised President Donald Trump would “absolutely” keep his electoral promise of cutting United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This is despite the urgent situation of the famine.

The lack of solidarity has led Somalis across the world to stand with their people and campaign themselves. Somali Faces, a UK-based Somali diaspora organisation has raised over £43,000 within six days of starting a fundraising campaign.

“We feel that many of these deaths are grossly unreported,” Somali Faces told MEMO. In addition to their activism, they have taken matters into their own hands and have provided us with Halima’s story, and others who have been fighting to survive the famine in Somalia.

"Only God knows why we are still alive. We thank Him that he has allowed us to live another day…The water is scarce, and we are weak. I'm so tired, and I'm old. [PHOTO CREDIT Somali Faces]”

“Only God knows why we are still alive. We thank Him that he has allowed us to live another day…The water is scarce, and we are weak. I’m so tired, and I’m old.” [Image: Somali Faces]

Somalis on social media have refused to stay silent. One campaigner, who did not wish to be named, told MEMO that the Somali diaspora are campaigning because it is the only thing they felt they could do.

We saw the suffering going on back home and felt it was our duty to help and raise awareness worldwide.

The members of the diaspora have organised, fundraised and have encouraged others to stand in solidarity and support. Some were hopeful that humanity will see through, while others were critical of the overall absence in support.

Somalis have even taken to the dimension of student activism to fundraise and raise awareness. At Queen Mary University of London, students from the Somali Society have partnered with UK-based charity Human Appeal to raise money for relief through a culture night. The students from the same university have also raised more than £10,000 in aid.

With governments becoming more isolationist and with the outlook for civilians in Somalia becoming grimmer, diaspora groups coming together is more crucial than ever. With what many have described as a media blackout on the situation in Somalia, solidarity for the cause may be less consistent, but this has not stopped the diaspora from conducting grassroots activism and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide aid and relief.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.