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Humanitarian Watch

Food-packing event supplies almost 5 million meals for Somalia



More than 19,000 volunteers packed meals to help Somalis facing severe drought and famine.

Pat Pheifer

Almost 5 million meals with the protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to sustain hungry children and their families will be headed from Minnesota to Somalia, thanks to a four-day food-packing marathon at the St. Paul RiverCentre sponsored by Feed My Starving Children.

Somalia is experiencing severe drought after two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall. In the worst affected areas, lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, forcing people to sell their assets and borrow food and money to survive.

In March, the United Nations said at least 6.2 million people — about half the country — were grappling with acute food shortages. Over a two-day period, at least 110 people died of hunger in just a single region, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire told National Public Radio.

Feed My Starving Children, in conjunction with Love, Somalia, has already shipped 3.5 million meals to Somalia this year. Its four-day event in St. Paul, which ended Monday, had a goal of 6 million meals. When the doors closed Monday evening, 4,906,440 meals had been hand-packed by volunteers, said Allison Schwartz, communications manager for Feed My Starving Children, making it the largest mobile food packing event in the organization’s history.

The event had a fundraising goal of $1.5 million, as well; $85,000 was raised online, and Schwartz didn’t have any updated figures Monday.

The group has three permanent food-packing sites in Minnesota (in Eagan, Chanhassen and Coon Rapids), three in Illinois and one in Arizona. Those are open six days a week, with five two-hours shifts each day. All the work is done by volunteers.

Jodi Annis of Minnetonka brought her 6-year-old daughter, Leona, to work a two-hour shift on Sunday. Friends brought their children.

“We packed 945 boxes,” Annis said. “And each box has 18 bags. It was pretty remarkable. Back in January, when the administration turned over, I got inspired to do more community work and help out as much as I can,” she said. “This one came up on my radar.”

The work was a learning tool for Leona, too. That morning, her mom said, Leona couldn’t decide what to eat for breakfast.

“She was hemming and hawing. I said, you could go hungry, which is what the Somalis are doing right now because they can’t grow food,” Annis said. “She thought that was terrible.”

The whole experience “was a blast,” Annis said. “They had great music and people were pumped up and excited. It always feels great to help out other people.

Feed My Starving Children had hoped for 30,000 volunteers. About 19,000 people signed up online and many more showed up as walk-ins, Schwartz said.

Each of the “MannaPack” meals contains rice, textured soy protein, dehydrated vegetables and a vegetarian flavoring with more than 20 micronutrients. The ingredients are specially formulated to help children thrive and to reverse and prevent malnutrition. When the meals arrive at their destination, they can be supplemented with other vegetables and meat.

“The volunteers’ hands are literally the last hands that touch the meals before it’s being opened in other countries to serve children,” Schwartz said. The meals are distributed to communities and are often used in school programs, she said.

Feed My Starving Children uses the money raised to buy the food. Schwartz said 90 percent of donations go directly to the program.

The group works with partner agencies in Somalia and 70 other countries to ship and distribute the food. The food packed in the RiverCentre event probably will reach Somalia in about two months, she said.

For Somalia, this is the second drought in six years. In 2011, more than 250,000 people died during a drought and famine.


Canada continues to respond to critical humanitarian needs in Somalia, Will provide $10.4 million for humanitarian assistance



Canada is concerned by the extremely fragile humanitarian situation in Somalia and supports international efforts to meet the basic needs of the millions of Somalis facing hunger, disease, displacement, physical insecurity and loss of livelihoods. Somalia continues to face the ongoing effects of nearly three decades of conflict and insecurity as well as the impact of chronic drought and other natural disasters.

The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today announced, on behalf of the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, that Canada will provide $10.4 million for humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities in Somalia.

Minister Hussen made the announcement during an event with members of the Somalian community in Etobicoke, Ontario.

This new funding will be allocated to the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme and the American Refugee Committee to help address the critical needs of Somalis affected by the ongoing severe drought and food insecurity in Somalia.

Canada has adopted a Feminist International Assistance Policy, which supports gender-responsive humanitarian action that makes it easier for women, girls and all young children to access nutritious foods and supplements. This better addresses the unique needs of women and girls in a humanitarian crisis.


“While Somalia has taken great steps in recent years toward peace and stability, the country remains vulnerable to both natural disasters and conflict. Canada stands in solidarity with Somalia and the millions of Somalis requiring humanitarian assistance in the face of drought and insecurity. Canada is proud to provide this humanitarian assistance to address the needs of the most vulnerable and ensure those requiring emergency assistance are reached.”

– Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Quick Facts

  • Since 2015, Canada has allocated $89.3 million to address drought- and conflict-related humanitarian needs in Somalia, which includes $4.6 million from the Famine Relief Fund.
  • This funding has been channelled through UN agencies, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and non-governmental organizations to help provide food, water and sanitation; treatment for acute malnutrition; and other medical support, shelter and protection to those in need.
  • Canada also provides humanitarian support for approximately 1 million Somali refugees living in neighbouring countries through its funding to the UN Refugee Agency and the World Food Programme.

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Humanitarian Watch

Somalia’s Puntland Region Declares State of Emergency Over Drought



Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland declared a state of emergency Tuesday and appealed for food and water because of shortages triggered by a severe drought.

Drought has gripped large parts of the Horn of Africa country this year and the United Nations says children face acute malnutrition.

The crisis is compounded by al-Shabab’s Islamist insurgency that seeks to topple the central government that is backed by African Union peacekeepers and the West.

Al-Shabab militants carry out bombings in the capital Mogadishu and other regions. Militants killed more than 500 people in the capital in an attack last month.

Puntland’s government said 34,000 households across the region are affected by the drought due to the failure of successive rainy seasons.

Puntland “launched a wide-ranging humanitarian appeal to secure food, water and other resources for the affected region,” a government statement said. It said 70 percent of the area faced extreme drought and was unlikely to receive rain for five months.

Militant attacks in Puntland are rare compared to the rest of Somalia mainly because its security forces are relatively regularly paid and receive substantial U.S. assistance.

But this year there has been an upsurge in violence as al-Shabab and a splinter group linked to Islamic State have attacked government troops.

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Humanitarian Watch

Family in remote northern Somali village sell last camel in lost bid to save daughter sick with measles



RADIO ERGO — Saleban Mohamed Mire lost two of his daughters, aged six and two, from measles in the space of a week in the remote and forgotten northern Somali village of Fardhin.

After one daughter died, he sold his last remaining camel to get the money to transport the other sick child to the nearest hospital, some 45 km away on poor roads in the dusty town of Boame.

But they arrived there too late to save her.

“After my first daughter died at home we decided to rush the other one to hospital. We organised some money but it took us four days to travel to the hospital. She was in a critical state when we got there and the doctors couldn’t do much to save her,” Saledin told Radio Ergo.

“I blame the lack of health care [in our area] for their deaths from this disease,” he added.

The family, with eight children, ended up using the $350 they got from the sale of their camel to pay the medical fees for their dead daughter, who spent two days in hospital.

Saleeban said there were other families in his village with patients affected by measles and with no means of accessing hospitals.

“We have seen deaths of children in the area, I took part in the burial of two other children two days ago in Karin-Kafood village, I presume that they died of measles,” he

Dr Mohamed Yasin Warasame, known as Hayte, who works in a private hospital in Boame, told Radio Ergo that three people died whilst being treated in his hospital.

“There are over 50 people who have been hospitalized with the disease. It is causing concern particularly in Karin-karfood village. The people who are sick in the rural areas where there are no medical services are the worst affected,” he said.

The District Commissioner’s office confirmed the deaths of three people including a six- year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy.

Boame lies in the border area between Puntland, Somaliland and Ethiopia.  Its control is disputed by Puntland and Somaliland and as a result it has very poor services and little if any access to aid. The people living there are traditionally nomadic pastoralists.

The commissioner of Boame district, Hayle Hassan Shire, told Radio Ergo’s local reporter that people often contacted his office asking for help but they were not able to do much to stop the spread of measles in the district.

“We tried to ask for aid from Puntland administration two weeks ago but they have not yet responded,” the commissioner said.

He added that vaccination services do not always reach the 15 remote villages in the district, where there are also up to 20 spontaneous camps that have been set up by distressed pastoralists displaced from their normal migration patterns by the terrible drought.

The recent rainfall in some areas has prompted a new movement of large numbers of people in search of water and pasture for their animals. This has led to the spread of diseases such as measles.

Apart from one private hospital, Boame has only two Mother and Child Health centres.

Dr Hayte said there is a need for health services to be taken out to the people in distant villages.

“We are private hospital and we have medicine, we treat whoever comes here at a fee and we sometimes give them services on credit.  But there are many others who cannot afford to reach the hospital. These people need humanitarian aid,” he said.

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