UN Declares Famine in Somalia: Diaspora Support Relief Efforts in Somalia and at Home

Somali-American Community, ARAHA, and American Refugee Committee Respond in Mogadishu

July 20, 2011—The UN declared a famine in southern Somalia today, marking the first time the agency has declared a famine in the 20 years since drought last devastated the region.  Families are struggling to survive:  reports indicate that people have walked for more than 30 days to find help, while others are trapped in their villages because they are too weak to walk.  “Parents are going to unimaginable lengths to save their children,” said Daniel Wordsworth, President of the American Refugee Committee. “Children are dying.  This is an absolutely devastating crisis.”

Members of the Somali-American community are teaming up to help—both in Somalia and in the U.S. 

•    IN the US:  Many members of the Somali-American community have family members who are affected by the crisis.  The community is raising funds through car washes and bake sales.  Thirty local youth gathered at a youth organizing meeting in Minnesota—they were so moved by the crisis, that they each agreed to raise $1000 to help.

•    IN SOMALIA:  The diaspora is helping in Somalia as well.  The American Refugee Committee and American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA) have teams on the ground assisting more than 200 starving families in Mogadishu.  “Our teams report that virtually no one is on the ground here helping,” said Mohamed Idris, Executive Director of ARAHA, “There is little food and no running water.  People are dying due to the spread of disease—just yesterday four people died from measles in the camp where we are working.  I fear this is just the beginning.”

The crisis stems from severe drought and skyrocketing food prices.  After 20 years of crisis, an estimated one-quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million people have been forced from their homes or are living as refugees outside of Somalia, and one in three people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

“This is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” added Wordsworth. “And it’s a race against time.  By acting now, we can save lives.”

•    The American Refugee Committee is taking donations at:  American Refugee Committee; 430 Oak Grove Street, Suite 204; Minneapolis, MN  55403 USA; tel 612-872-7060 or at .
•    ARAHA is taking donations at:  ARAHA; 2111 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN  55418 USA; tel 612-781-7646 or at .

American Refugee Committee:  American Refugee Committee programs are built from the ground up.  We work with people at the most vulnerable points in their lives, when they have lost everything to war or disaster.  They let us know what they need most, and we work together to develop ways to help them get it.  Our programs are as diverse as the people we serve, but they all work together for the same goal:  to help people take back control of their lives.  We help nearly 2.5 million people a year through programs around the world.  Through our “Neighbors for Nations” initiative, we are partnering with the Somali diaspora community to build community in Somalia and in the US.  We are based in Minneapolis, MN.  To learn more, visit

ARAHA:  For more than a decade, the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA) has strived to alleviate the suffering from hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty in the Horn of Africa.  Through focused relief and income-generating programs, ARAHA works to deliver essentials while developing opportunities for people in need. To learn more, visit .

Internally Displaced Somali Advisory Council:  The Somali Advisory Council is a group of 11 Somali professionals representing every region of Somalia.  They have offered counsel to the American Refugee Committee’s Neighbors for Nations effort, which works to build community in the U.S. and in Somalia.  The Council shares a vision for Somalia as a whole and is committed to a focus on humanitarian needs.

Press contact: Therese Gales at (612) 221-5161 or (612) 607-6494

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