#somalia– what can you do?

Since much of the news about Somalia has demonstrated the obstacles faced by large international relief organizations and aid-NGOs, I’ve looked around for a local organization to give to. With lots of money trickling into the country, it sounds like the more pressing issue has been successfully delivering the relief. This is not uncommon in development “disaster and crisis relief” initiatives, though who and what to blame for that is a dissertation-worthy question.

Since it seems that getting the money in the right hands is more urgent than necessarily getting the money to Somalia, I think it’s important to give to organizations with long-standing relationships in affected communities, especially local and community-based organizations. I do believe that real progress comes from the bottom up, so I have a bias for CBOs, but that aside, it makes sense to empower well-established local organizations– they know best about the communities they are working in, and in turbulent situations their know-how comes in handy. In particular, Somalia has a complex culture of clan-based governance. There is no functioning government, and independent groups govern certain areas, setting the terms for who can go where. So, a lot of international organizations’ staff are not allowed to get to people in need.  

 *Horn Relief is an organization that I’m more confident in than the big international orgs because of it’s demonstrated commitment to indigenous people of Somalia and it’s holistic approach to development (more about that on their website).

Horn Relief is an African-led international organization dedicated to supporting sustainable peace and development in Somalia through grassroots capacity building, youth development, human rights promotion, and environment protection. Founded in 1991, HR has roots in Somalia working with pastoralist communities to support their economic needs. Emergency Response is one of the five main areas through which Horn Relief pursues it’s mission, in addition to Food Security. They are currently operating in South central Somalia and Kenya, and perhaps other countries but I’m not sure. Here’s some info from Horn Relief’s appeal, including how it is responding to the drought:

Horn Relief aims to help 500,000 people in Kenya and Somalia get the food, water and other basic items they need to stay alive.

For the past 20 years, Horn Relief has been working in Somalia and recently began helping vulnerable families in Northeastern Kenya. Our staff is on the ground working to ensure immediate aid gets to the people who need it the most.

The next two months are critical and a response is urgently needed before the next rains.

Emergency aid is needed now to save lives and protect livelihoods. Please consider helping by donating to Horn Relief.

Here is how you can help:

$25 will feed 1 family for 1 week
$100 will feed 1 family for 1 month
$150 will feed and provide basic needs for 1 family for 1 month
$300 will feed and provide basic needs for 1 family for 2 months
$900 will feed and provide basic needs for 3 families for 2 months

Basic needs include water and medicine. Concerned about where your money will go? Ninety per cent of all Horn Relief donations goes directly to needy families, and the remainder provides support

Want to make a donation? http://www.hornrelief.org/help-horn-relief.htm

*Medecins Sans Frontiers, or Doctors Without Borders, also has a decades old presence in Somalia. They offer medical or related assistance in conflict or catastrophe affected countries. Here’s a blog post about MSF in Somalia: Amid Restrictions, MSF Seeks to Widen Assistance to Malnourished Somalis.

In these awful situations its hard to know what one can really do to affect any positive change. But at the very least, a bit of research about getting money into trusted hands can go far. I’d love to know of other similar community-based organizations working in East Africa to address the drought crisis if you are familiar with any.

Below I’ve linked a couple more articles about the famine that I found insightful since I know very little about the region.
IRIN: Fast Facts about the Drought
Famine Devastates Somalia in the Shadow of US Domination

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