It was my first time going to Somalia. Being born and reared in the big city of Chicago, my parents decided to show me the other side of the world, significantly their world, of Hargeisa Somalia/Somaliland, and Jijiga Ethiopia.
At the age of nine, I saw firsthand how the other side of the world lived. I realized that I was brought up with a sliver spoon in my mouth and took many things for granted. I experienced how third-world countries operate, and I forever took that trip with me.
Today, my parents’ beloved country is in turmoil. About 12 million people are facing a famine in east Africa. According to CNN, nearly half a million children are at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease, and thousands of Somalis have been fleeing the country each week in search of food, water and shelte—many of them walking for days in the sweltering sun toward refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
The heart-wrenching images shown in the media are not the Somalia I remember. The pictures of the man-made graves, housing children that will never have a future, not only break my heart but rattle my soul, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. If there is any time to give Zakat, (charity during the month of Ramadan) it is now. Many of my friends have been calling me, telling me that they are praying for Somalia. Somalia needs more than prayers. This is the worst drought to hit East Africa in 60 years, and the worst food crisis since the 1991-1992 famine. If anything, Somalia needs fewer prayers and more effort.
To fathom what is going on in east Africa, is to understand how it all started. A prolonged drought, political conflict and rising food and fuel prices became the snowball effect of the crisis. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist insurgent group that controlled many areas of the country, withdrew from the capital, actually allowing aid to reach the people in need. This is considered one big step for a country in need.
With media coverage finally shedding a light on this prolonged problem, the only question I had was, this—what I could do to help? UNICEF and other worldwide charities are running appeals to help raise funds to pay for food and medical supplies.
Soon, the media coverage will stop but that doesn’t mean this crisis has stopped. I advise all to reach out to the people of Somalia. Be aware of this crisis, and help those in need.