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Focus on famine: 'Kids are fighting over empty bottles'

Members of Islamic Relief Canada organization staying longer in northern Somalia to try to avert growing crisis.

Mahmood Qasim, left, is in northern Somalia to oversee projects to distribute food and water supplies to people facing famine.

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Mahmood Qasim, left, is in northern Somalia to oversee projects to distribute food and water supplies to people facing famine.

The magnitude of drought caught Mahmood Qasim and his team off guard when they landed in Somaliland (northern Somalia) last Friday.

The heat is unbearably extreme, with daytime temperature hovering around 40 C. Thousands of displaced families leave their dead livestock behind and travel hundreds of kilometres on foot to reach makeshift camps, where it’s easier for aid organizations to distribute food and water. Desperate children line up on roads hoping for passersby to throw anything at them to eat.

“Kids are fighting over empty bottles, trying to squeeze out the last drop of water,” said Qasim from Mississauga, speaking to Metro this week from Ainabo, Somaliland.

As a member of the Islamic Relief Canada, Qasim travelled with some members of the Somali Canadian Task Force on Famine Prevention in Somalia — one of the four countries facing a famine outbreak according to the United Nations.

Metro has chronicled the ongoing food insecurity in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. Efforts by immigrants from affected countries have sprung up across Canada to raise funds for people in need of immediate assistance. The Islamic Relief Canada has committed to raising $1.2 million for Somalia. They’ve collected over $300,000 so far.

The situation is so dire Qasim and his team had to delay their return time in an effort to reach more affected regions. About 600 households in Ainabo received food and water supplies on Monday. Another 400 displaced families in Waridaad got supplies Wednesday, while plans are underway to visit Bohotle camps near Ethiopia. Even then, Qasim knows their efforts aren’t enough to avert the crisis he’s witnessing.

“It’s not even close,” he said. “This is going to become a major crisis if nothing is done to stop it.”

How you can help:

Somali-Canadians across the country and many other NGOs are leading efforts to assist those affected by famine in Somalia:

  • Somali Canadian Task Force on Famine Prevention in Somalia: Formed last month as a response to the ongoing famine, the group has raised over $300,000 through Islamic Relief Canada. More info at islamicreliefcanada.org
  • Horn of Africa Development Assistance: The Ottawa-based non-profit runs development projects in Somalia aimed at fighting poverty and building capacity. To get involved or donate, visit hada.ca

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