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Friday, March 14, 2008

Fondness for Somalia

With my new found fondness for Somalia I have taken a greater interest in the oft-forgotten country.

Why the new Fondness?
I have always had a fondness for Africa, so that part isn't new. Somali hasn't been on the radar much but now is mostly due to the fact that we are now living in the metro area with the highest concentration of Somali Refugees in the United States. Also in part because I am working in a school that is at least 1/3 Somali students - most whom are learning English. Many of our neighbors are Somalian and we live within 3 blocks of two Somali Mosques.

Somali Family Night
Last night my school held a Somali Family Night for the first time in several years. We were excited to have about 40 people show up and hope to keep the momentum rolling. You see in Somalia the parent's weren't overly involved in the educational system. Children went to school and the school handled everything. That isn't quite the case here in the US as I'm sure you know. So we had some of our Somali and non-Somalian teachers talk about how the families can help their students succeed.

Somalian Refugee Crisis?? That was so 90's
That's true many people have forgotten about the conflict in Somali partly because there are so many conflict in Africa and partly due to fatigue and overall lack of apathy. I would also conjecture that it is in some part because everyone in Somalia is Muslim (that might be very cynical of me). The conflict has continued with very little respite since the mid-1990's (remember Black Hawk Down?). The country has been in some state of conflict since post-colonialism in the 1960's. On a tangential note, much of the African conflicts could be traced back to how colonists acted when they left. One of the teachers at the school has been in the US for 20 years - so the conflict has been prominent for at least that long.

Refugee's Are Dying
All of this came to mind today because of a news report I received from the UN yesterday. It is titled: Somali Refugees Surviving on Less than 1 Meal a Day. Much like everyone else, refugees aren't guaranteed anything when the seek refuge from their homes. But we generally expect there to be some level of safety and comfort at refugee camps. This report said:
Large numbers of families displaced by violence in Somalia are surviving on less than one meal a day and spending large proportions of their meagre income buying drinking water, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Severe droughts in parts of the country has exacerbated the problem for Somali's who are fleeing urban areas due to violence.
"Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced," the ICRC said. "Their situation has been exacerbated by a chronic lack of rainfall. The cost of living has risen so steeply that many people cannot afford to buy food and other essential items."

In some parts of the country, the population was entirely dependent on animal breeding and trading. However, pastures had become barren in many places and herders were losing animals that had become too weak to walk the lengthening distances between fresh pastures and scarce water points.

Highlighting the plight of some 3,500 families who arrived two months ago in Guriel, 300km from Mogadishu, Gagnon said: "These families are enduring the extremities of suffering. The living conditions are shocking. In some places, food, water, essential household items, and sanitation facilities are scarce or non-existent."

A severe drought had hit Mudug region, with some communities having lost their basic means of sustaining themselves.
We should be praying for peace and finding ways to support the refugee system to bring in water and other necessities. I haven't found a Save Somalia group, like the Save Darfur groups - but it is just as important.

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1 comment:

carol said...

Hey Nick,
I'm reading a book called "Infidel" by Ayann Hirsi Ali. It is an awesome book. It is the story of her life growing up in Somalia and then ending up in Holland as a refugee...then ends up serving in Parliment. She is highly protected because her life is in danger due to her speaking out against Islam's abuse of women. I think you and Christy would like this book. I also find it interesting how our gov't has contributed a bit to the increase in violence in the capital. In our efforts to fight terrorism (by getting the Islamic fundamentalist out of govt')we have helped bring back clan clashes.