Texas Non-Profits Aid African Famine Victims
While much of Texas is gripped by one of the worst droughts in history, a drought in East Africa has created a desperate situation for millions in the region. Now the United Nations and Texas aid groups are scrambling to collect donations to help keep pace with the disaster.
The disaster has been growing for months, but it did not start to break through until July 20, when the UN declared that parts of Somalia were in a famine.
“That’s the big catastrophic ‘F’ word in the aid world: famine,” Courtney Holder says. She is with A Glimmer of Hope, an Austin-based non-profit that does work in Ethiopia.
It’s the first official African famine since 1984, but Holder says the nature of these kinds of disasters make it hard to penetrate the news cycle.
“If you have something like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption or some sort of big catastrophe, it gets lots of news coverage, and everyone can see sort of the cause and effect,” Holder says. “But with drought, it’s slow.”
As many as 10 million people are at risk from the drought that has devastated crops and livestock. It’s affecting Kenya, Ethiopia, and especially Somalia.
As bad as the drought is, the political and security situations in Somalia have made things worse. Areas controlled by militant Islamists are difficult to access for Western aid groups.
The political will has so far not been there to address the situation, according to Mahmoud Egal. Egal is the President of the Amoud Foundation, a non-profit based in Irving aimed at humanitarian efforts in Somalia. He says Americans’ bad associations with Somalia—from terrorism to piracy to the “Blackhawk Down” incident—may be squelching politicians’ and the public’s willingness to help. This, in turn, may be having an effect outside the U.S.
“I think America drives the world, and were America to have addressed the issue of famine earlier, this would have been better,” says Egal.
The United Nations yesterday said the amount of aid so far is not enough to cope with the situation. Groups like Egal’s and Courtney Holder’s are collecting money for relief effort, but Holder also says the sheer scope of the famine and the number of people suffering is daunting for potential donors.
“You know, how do you connect to 10 million people who are at risk of starvation?” Holder says. “It’s such a huge number. It’s larger than the population of New York City.”
Still, Holder says every donation counts.
Mahmoud Egal received a call yesterday from a friend in Somalia on Monday, who said he had been through a town devastated by the famine.
“[My friend told me that] 90 percent of the people pass away, die” Egal says. “And he says the smell of corpses is everywhere. This cannot wait.”