August 30, 2011

Famine in Somalia

As Muslims around the world mark Eid Al-Fitr, many Somali Muslims will not be able to participate due to the ongoing famine.

The holy month of Ramadan is a time of fasting and reflection with a strong focus on charity. Muslims around the world are sending money and resources to Somalia. The Saudi Air Force has already flown in 20 tons of food donations, and plans are underway to send an additional 180 tons in the coming weeks. The Arab Medical Union in Gaza and Egypt are accepting donations to send food and medical aid. Gazans are also raising money for famine victims through their “From Gaza hand in hand to save the children of Somalia” campaign.

As a result of the worst drought in six decades and mass famine over 1.5 million people have been displaced inside the country, and 860,000 have left seeking refuge in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia. Every day, more than 1,200 people flow into Dadaab, a camp in Kenya that houses an estimated 440,000 refugees. Recently, the United Nations declared a famine in seven regions of southern Somalia with more than 12 million people affected in the Horn of Africa.

Somalia has experienced several droughts over the last few decades, but there are many factors that have led to this famine. Abdi Smatar, who will join us to discuss the situation, believes the famine was caused more by the political situation. According to Samatar, local governments are unable to provide resources for their people due to a lack of regional control and an ongoing conflict with al-Shabaab rebels. He argues that the Transitional Federal Council is fraught with corruption, internal strife and sectarian divides that prevent it from providing for its people.

Wadah Khanfar, Director General of Al Jazeera, will join The Stream live on Tuesday, the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, to discuss the crisis. His appearance will follow a visit to Somali refugee camps where he saw conditions first hand and worked to raise international awareness about the famine and the growing need for assistance.

These are some of the social media elements featured in this episode of The Stream.