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22 July 2011

Gift of the Givers: Somalia Relief Aid


SOMALIA FAMINE : UPDATE 2 
Greetings of Peace


Dear Recipients

It's 7.45am, Wednesday, 20 July 2011; the chartered plane lands in Mogadishu Airport. A hive of excitement amid the beautiful weather and the magnificent coastline, as hordes of journalists and government representatives receive the delegation.  Every delegation means new hope; new promises but sadly, very little returns.

We are whisked away through the side gate with urgent haste; Mogadishu is synonomous with instability, insecurity and high risk. As we exit, hordes of military vehicles with more than a dozen young soldiers on each bakkie form a gauntlet around the entourage. In the orderly chaos, our Horn of Africa rep, Dr Hashi, misses me at the airport. Cellphones including Blackberry's don't connect.

"Communication, Logistics and an Exit Strategy", this is going to be a nightmare for any international NGO that dares to come here; options are racing through the mind: how do we land here, where do we store our supplies, what tonnage should we come with, what length is this runway, what size aircraft can land here, how do we transport those supplies and our teams including medical and media, how do we arrange security in transit and at our place of accomodation as the risk of kidnapping of foreigners is extremely high, what will be the communication options. As all these questions challenge the faculties, the "saviour", the remarkable satellite phone connects with Dr. Hashi; connecting is one thing, trying to explain which "bush" you are in is quite another.

But Divine intervention has never failed us in 19 years of disaster response in 32 countries. Out of the corner of my eye as we speeding through the dusty streets I spot Dr Hashi on the roadside frantically absorbed on his cellphone. I jump out of the vehicle, without waiting for it to stop; the hug, the embrace, the feeling of overwhelming joy of seeing a familiar face; I feel it in my bones we are going to conquer the obstacles.  That inner feeling of positivity starts manifesting itself strongly as we approach the refugee camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Dr Hashi is already involved in this camp with a reliable local NGO; hardworking, enthusiastic, clear thinkers, honest, non factional (refugees from various clans are here) and flexible. We have found our "ground" partner and that's a plus.

The camp is a huge "plastic" city, not a tent in sight, 25000 mostly women, children and some men reside in this cramped, unhygienic hellhole. What can they do, they don't have any resources and the international community has neglected them. This is the newest camp with new refugees streaming in every day from distances as far as 600km away. Emaciated women, unable even to produce breast milk, malnourished 2 year olds looking no bigger than 3 month old infants, malaria patients lying helplessly on the floor, pneumonia and other diseases are common but the HUNGER is devastating. This is FAMINE undeniably and the world needs to respond NOW, rapidly and aggressively. Africa should lead that response because these are our brothers and sisters.  Paucity of food and water, non-existent medical facilities, no doctors, nurses or medical supplies, this is Somalia.  Those in the camps are the "lucky ones", along the 600km road thousands are in danger of dying or dead already.  The security situation, the instability, the logistics, the challenges are not an issue anymore, respond we must. How and what - see next update.

Visit www.giftofthegivers.org for the latest pictures. Call tollfree 0800786911 for more details.

Imtiaz Sooliman.
Cell 0832364028 (From Johannesburg)