Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the USAID blog
The face of famine is painfully personal for members of the Somali American communities in Columbus, OH and Minneapolis, MN. Yesterday, I led a community roundtable in each city, home to the two largest Somali diaspora communities in the United States. I was able to express deepest concern, on behalf of the US government, for the people of Somalia and update them on urgent relief efforts underway by the US government throughout the Horn of Africa, where a serious drought is affecting more than 11 million people.
The USG is currently reaching more than 4.6 million people in the region who need emergency help, including $80 million of life-saving assistance to help 1.5 million people in accessible areas of Somalia. The UN has declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia where humanitarian access has been limited by Al Shabaab. USG is urgently supporting partners to provide food, health, water and sanitation assistance wherever they can access communities desperate for help.
I was also able to listen and learn from this dynamic community. Somali Americans are a vital lifeline of support for their communities and families throughout Somalia. I heard from dozens of community leaders who have mobilized their friends and neighbors to raise money for the drought through car washes, bake sales and fund drives. They are supporting feeding centers and health clinics. They have established NGOs dedicated to helping the growing number of orphaned children. A young woman in Minneapolis, choking back tears, described her Facebook page where she is raising money for drought relief and posting stories of families struggling to survive. As I heard from Jibril Mohamed in Columbus, “In 1992 I was a boy who fled the conflict and drought of southern Somalia and did the same long walk to the border that families are doing now.” Jibril is now determined to reach back with the same kind of helping hand he received.
In Minneapolis, a number of Somali NGOs have joined forces with the American Refugee Committee (ARC) in an initiative called Neighbors for Nations which unites and mobilizes diaspora community efforts to provide relief and development services in Somalia.
We have a short window of opportunity to reach the 2.85 million Somalis living in famine and conflict. The Somali American community is a critical partner in identifying ways to help save lives. We need urgently to ensure life-saving assistance reaches people now and are committed to doing so. I look forward to working with this dedicated group of citizens to save lives.
Learn more about the U.S. Government response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa.
Nancy Lindborg is USAID’s Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.