Local groups rally aid for Somalia famine victims
Members of the Somali community in King County — which has the third-largest Somali population in the U.S. — have been organizing to raise funds for those suffering in the Horn of Africa, where the United Nations declared an official famine July 20.
Seattle Times staff reporters
National organizations helping SomaliaThese organizations are taking donations for the relief effort:
Catholic Relief Services: 800-736-3467
Doctors Without Borders: 888-392-0392
Mercy Corps: 888-256-1900
Oxfam America: 800-77-OXFAM (800-776-9326). Outside the U.S.: 617-482-1211
Save the Children: 800-728-3843
U.N. World Food Program: 866-929-1694
UNICEF United States Fund: 800-FOR-KIDS (800-367-5437)
World Concern 866-530-5433 or by texting the world "crisis" to 20222
Source: The Washington Post
Local efforts to help SomaliaUpcoming fundraisers in Seattle and Tukwila include:
Carwash: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday; Abu-Bakr Islamic Center of Washington, 14101 International Blvd., Tukwila
Lunch and auction: Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Rainier Community Center, 4600 38th Ave. S., Seattle
Donations: May be made to Seattle-based East African Community Services via direct deposit to Bank of America; 7054 32nd Ave. S., Suite 207; Seattle, WA 98118; routing No. 1250000241, account No. 24768608.
In the Tukwila home of Shariffa Sabrie, about 30 people gathered last weekend to talk about the famine in Somalia and help pay for a shipment of food and fortified formula to the drought-wracked African nation.
After the United Nations declared an official famine there on July 20, members of the Somali community in King County — which has the third-largest Somali population in the U.S. — have been organizing grass-roots efforts to garner aid for those suffering in the Horn of Africa.
An estimated 11 million people are affected by this crisis in northeastern Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, and East Africans here have joined together to respond to the devastation in a way they never have before, said Subeida Mukhtar, who lives in Seattle. Mukhtar is helping to plan several fundraising events this week and later this summer — including an auction, a carwash and a walkathon.
The efforts here come as major international aid organizations are struggling against roadblocks set up by al-Shabaab militants. Mukhtar said that because al-Shabaab has blocked aid workers from coming into Somalia, Somalis here are taking things into their own hands.
Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991 when longtime dictator Siad Barre was overthrown by warlords who then turned on each other. Islamist militants are attempting to overthrow a weak U.N.-backed government. "We know our people need help," Mukhtar said. "They need the food, they need the water — those dire basic needs. The community, I think everybody, instead of waiting for the international organizations to get approval, said: 'Why don't we do something?' "
Restaurants and a local Somali artist have donated to the auction, which will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rainier Community Center.
Community members are talking with contacts and sounding out which agencies could best distribute the funds in Somalia, Muhktar said.
Sabrie is donating cash she has received to Somcare, a nonprofit aid organization based in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minn., run by Abdiaziz Maahaay, a Somali-born Minnesota resident.
Maahaay said he has experience in distributing aid in Somalia and previously has shipped donated medical equipment from Minnesota hospitals to Somalia.
Maahaay recently has received donations from across the U.S. and has almost filled a 40-foot container with formula and food, but doesn't yet have enough money to ship it, he said.
When the container arrives in Somalia, Maahaay said, he plans to use contacts there to disperse the food and formula.
The crux of the issue, he said, is: "We are far away from home, and how long is it going to take, and those people need food right away."
Seattle-based World Concern also is assisting in the relief effort.
Tracy Stover, a Northwest native who has worked for World Concern for nine years, mostly in Africa, boarded a flight Wednesday for Kenya, where for six months she will coordinate Somalia efforts.
She said World Concern hopes to supply emergency food, water and medical supplies to some 10,000 of the Somalis living in camps in Kenya or along the Somali side of the border.
"This is a massive crisis, and there's a lot of need," she said.
The famine, the first since the drought of 1984-85 when 1 million died, also was caused by a drought, Somalia's worst in 60 years, World Concern said.
Of the estimated 7 million people who live in Somalia, about half are at risk because of the famine, said Dave Eller, president of World Concern. He said there has been a two-year ban on aid workers in Somalia, so the agency has been working out of Kenya.
The famine isn't an issue with a one-time fix, said Sabrie, who's trying to organize a monthly collection of money to continue the relief effort.
Jessie Van Berkel: 206-464-3192 or email@example.com
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