‘I was born in Somalia and it breaks my heart to hear stories of how families are suffering.’ As Olympian Sir Mo Farah calls the world’s attention to East Africa’s drought and famine, Cornwallbased ShelterBox is making partnership plans to help Somaliland families
On the day that the UK Government’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launches an appeal for the millions of people who face starvation across East Africa, shelter experts from international disaster relief agency ShelterBox have just returned from Hargeisa in Somaliland with a plan to aid drought-affected nomadic families.
Somaliland is a self-declared state on the Horn of Africa. Diplomatically isolated, it is now facing famine after three years of failed growing seasons. In the next few weeks seasonal rains known locally as ‘Gu’ are predicted to be light or negligible, which could pitch many nomadic farmers into famine. Half their livestock, on which they rely entirely for food and income, have already died. The ShelterBox team reported that dehydrated carcasses of cattle, sheep and goats litter the landscape.
ShelterBox’s Operations Team Lead James Luxton, who has just returned to the UK from Hargeisa to mobilise the charity’s aid programme, says, ‘We are forming a partnership with an in-country partner organisation, and will supply the portable shelter element. This will most probably be Shelter Kits that we have stored in volume at our hub in Dubai. We also have items like mosquito nets and solar lighting that are lightweight and may be very helpful to families on the move.’
‘It is the widely and thinly scattered nomadic population, constantly on the move, that brings the greatest challenge here. Simply locating those in greatest need amid this vast open territory will be a task.’
‘The Gu rainy season in April is the main crop season in Somaliland. In the usual cycle it brings three quarters of the area’s annual rainfall. But for the last three years this corner of Africa has experienced the worst growing seasons on record. No rain means no pasture for the flocks and herds, which means nothing for people to eat or sell.’ Sir Mo Farah has thrown his support behind the DEC’s appeal to help the millions of people facing starvation in East Africa. The four-time Olympic champion, an ambassador for Save the Children, was born in Somalia and spent his early childhood there. He will be fronting video appeals across UK TV channels.
Mo says, ‘The drought is really bad and there are millions of children at risk of starvation. I was born in Somalia and it breaks my heart to hear stories of how families are suffering.’ The DEC’s appeal is to help starving populations in Somalia (including Somaliland and Puntland),
Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. In February the UN formally declared a famine in parts of South Sudan – the first time in six years such an announcement has been made.
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed says, ‘We are hearing that families are so desperate for food that they are resorting to eating leaves to survive. This is something no family should have to endure.
Unless we act now the number of deaths will drastically increase.’ NOTES TO EDITORS