‘Kids are fight­ing over empty bot­tles’

Cana­dian team stay­ing longer to try to avert grow­ing cri­sis

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - WORLD - Gil­bert ngabo Metro | Toronto

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 the coun­try 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

Formed last month as a re­sponse to the famine, the group has raised over $300,000 through Is­lamic Re­lief Canada. Info at is­lami­cre­lief­canada.org

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.”

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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