Monday, March 24

Lent Remixed - Week 4: Somalia

On the surface, the figures alone are staggering:
Source: World Vision

  • One out of seven children in Somalia is acutely malnourished.  
  • One in ten children in Somalia die before their first birthday.
  • Over 2.9 million people within Somalia are in need of assistance; 857,000 of those are in a crisis or emergency situation when it comes to meeting their food needs. 

For many of us, our familiarity with Somalia may stem from depictions of Captain Phillips or from or our interactions with folks in the local Somali community. But what may not be immediately obvious to us is the precariousness of a country that continues to experience ongoing famine and hunger.

According to a report published just last month by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department, a myriad of factors have brought Somalia to its current state:
Two decades of conflict and worsening cycles of drought have left millions of Somalis extremely vulnerable. One failed rainy season or flood can quickly expose thousands to disease, displacement and destitution. At present, 857,000 individuals are in acute crisis and cannot meet their food needs, while 2.05 million are at risk of sliding back into crisis.

Conflict, loss of livelihoods and the threat of forced recruitment into militias have forced civilian populations to flee into displacement camps within and outside the country. There are 1.1 million people internally displaced, while close to 1 million Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries. 


In 2013, a new government was in place and efforts at state-building and peace-building have been enshrined in a Transition Compact called the New Deal for Somalia. Significant funding from development donors has been pledged towards this. Nonetheless, deepening violence and conflict caused continued population displacements and insecurity in the South and Central regions.

Abuses of both human rights and international humanitarian law place civilians at risk daily, and sexual violence against women is at worrying levels. The main provider of free healthcare in Somalia, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), pulled out of the country in August 2013 after 22 years citing unacceptable security threats to its staff. Somalia remains one of the most complex environments in which to deliver aid. 
... The situation remains serious ... Acute malnutrition continues to afflict hundreds of thousands of children, especially in the south of the country. 
The report concludes by noting that although the food security outlook has improved marginally compared to September 2013, a significant portion of the population remains at risk. "The nutrition situation for children under five remains very critical, particularly in the southern regions worst hit by famine in 2011," the report notes. The overall conclusion is a worrisome one: "Today’s humanitarian situation is similar to conditions prior to the 2011 famine – numbers are showing slight improvements but resources are dwindling and access remains a challenge." 

So what can we do?


Pray. This week, we will pray for the people of Somalia, as well as children and families throughout the world suffering from humanitarian crises (other African countries like Mali and the South Sudan come to mind, as well as the typhoon-affected Philippines). We will pray for effective interventions to address short-term needs as well as long-term solutions that will alleviate the ongoing threat of hunger and disease, an end to the violence and instability that has led to a deterioration in the population's ability to meet basic needs such as food. 
Fast. This week, we will fast two evenings. We will go without food to remind ourselves of the hunger many around the world face on a daily basis, and tell our children why we are doing so. If your children are older, I encourage you to have them join you this week by eating two meals of just rice and beans, the staple for many poor people who have nothing else to eat. If you have young children, try fasting from something else (sweets, etc.) on those days.
Give. This week we will take the money we would have used for the two meals we fast from and instead give it to those who are hungry around the world. World Vision is one of many wonderful organizations meeting the needs of those who are hungry.
Do something. Did you know that there is actually enough food in the world to feed everyone, including those who are starving? Did you know that each year we waste almost half of the world’s food? Waste. Did you know there are simple things to do to decrease the amount of food we waste each year, including planning out our meals, using what’s in our cupboards and refrigerators, requesting smaller portions and using our freezers more often? For other great food-saving ideas, click here.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the need, here's another staggering statistic that matters: I’ve heard that if every person gave just $1/week this year, we could end world hunger for the year.  
Our giving, no matter how small, matters. It all makes a difference.

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