Somali Australians call for aid in drought-stricken homeland

19/08/2011

East Africa Crisis News Story
Refugees from Somalia who fled to a camp in northeast Kenya. So many are arriving that the official grounds of the camp cannot hold them all, so they are setting up tents or makeshift domed shelters in what are called the "outskirts." Photo: Laura Sheahen/Catholic Relief Services

Somali Australians want the nation and the world community to increase support for their drought-ravaged homeland, as thousands perish without adequate food and water.

“There are many children dying, their mothers have to leave them behind on the road because they can’t walk any further,” United Somali Association of Queensland Chairman, Hussein Ali Ahmed, said.

“We are watching here helplessly from Australia and it is very difficult for everybody. You have to remember that many of us went through this ourselves but we were escaping a man-made disaster – fighting and violence. They are now escaping a natural disaster but it is the same thing.”

About 10,000 Somalis and Ethiopians are escaping the drought to an over-capacity Kenyan refugee camp every week.

Half of the population, or around four million people, rely on small crops and livestock for food.

“We have to get aid to them quickly, we have to make sure they don’t go to these refugee camps because, if they do, their lives will be changed dramatically,” Mr Ahmed said.

“In a refugee camp they will lose their self-reliance, they will have to start from scratch. This would be extremely difficult and half the population will be in that situation.

“I will encourage the international community to give as much as possible so these people can get shelter, medicine, food and clean water as quickly as possible.”

Sections of Somalia have now been declared in famine and there have been predictions the situation will deteriorate as crops wither and water becomes more scarce.

Caritas Australia Humanitarian Emergency Group regional coordinator Richard Forsythe said the only way to address the crisis was to move quickly in support of the people of Somalia and the rest of the drought-affected nations, which include Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania and South Sudan.

“Like Caritas, there are aid and development agencies based all across East Africa and they have the understanding and the ability to deliver aid to most areas,” Mr Forsythe said.

“Somalia does pose particular challenges because of politics and conflict, but wherever possible we must engage in the delivery of food, first aid, clean water and programs to keep livestock healthy in a very harsh environment.

“But to do that we need the support of the Australian community and the international community. It’s as simple as that.”

Caritas Australia has launched its East Africa Crisis Appeal.

Visit www.caritas.org.au/EastAfricaCrisis or phone 1800 024 413.


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