Newspaper and TV images portray hunger in Somalia but a much grimmer picture was described by Gift of the Givers founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman recollecting his week there.
“It was heartbreaking. Children are dying slowly. Parents are watching their children die in front of their eyes and can’t do a thing about it,” he said.
The famine in Somalia, more particularly in the capital city of Mogadishu, is due to the worst drought the Horn of Africa has seen in 60 years and has left thousands without food and water.
“Little Somalia” in Johannesburg is home to many immigrant Somalis who expressed their fears about the famine in Somalia.
Abdurahman Mahdi, who is from Kismayo, fled Somalia in 2007 because of political unrest.
“The problem is that the political climate is very dangerous, everyone is fighting. They all want to be winners, when it comes to fighting, there’s no other idea that they have, and all they are thinking about is fighting each other so they can’t help the people,” he says.
Mahdi says he contacts his family every month. “I try to help them if I get some money. The situation is very dangerous this time because there is no food, people cannot farm.”
Mahdi is here with his wife and children, but other immigrants are not as fortunate.
Haleema Abdul broke into tears when asked about her family back in Mogadishu. She says the situation there is serious. “I hope my country has peace, a good government.”
Nasreen Mohammad, who has been in SA for 18 months, is the youngest in her family and fled Somalia on her own.
Mohammad and her family are from Mogadishu. She says she has recently had problems contacting her family.
“I don’t know where my family is, that’s the problem. In six months I can’t send anything to my mother because I don’t know where I can send it to. But I will try where I can.”
The country has seen an estimated 29 000 children under the age of five die in the past 90 days, and more than 600 000 Somalis fleeing its borders.
Adding to the severity of the situation is the war between the government and rebel group Al Shabab. Each group wants to have power over the people in the area. Even within the Somali government, power conflicts get in the way of any decision-making processes making government action about the famine ineffectual.
Food donation collection points are set up outside the SRC shop in the Matrix, under the 1man 1can initiative which MSA-WITS are working under.
The Gift of the Givers has pick up points at their Johannesburg branch at Mint Road, Fordsburg.