Husnaa Bayat | 21 June 2017
Bombed buildings, broken infrastructure, bullet-holes, barren earth, dead animals, and desperate poverty. These were the scenes that lined their path as a South African humanitarian aid team and two journalists made their way through famine-stricken Somalia to offer relief.
Salaamedia representative and journalist Azhar Vadi, accompanied Al-Imdaad, Zam Zam Foundation, and IHH (of Turkey), and provided reports via the Salaamedia radio broadcast and social media platforms.
Vadi described Somalia as a “sea of poverty”, the likes of which he has not seen in travels to places such as Syria, Mozambique, and other developing African and Asian countries. Over 6 million people are in need of aid.
There were many Somalis who have struggled to walk over 100kms of desert and heat in search of food. In the images sent back to South Africa, mothers with babies in their arms could be seen who had walked miles to the distribution points, hoping to return to their families with some meagre provisions.
With no food or rain, the desperation reached such degrees that some have even been feeding on leaves. The Al-Imdaad food packs have been a lifeline. However, they were not expected to last longer than two weeks.
Al-Imdaad’s distribution began at Al-Fajr orphanage, where 800 orphans were given Eid packs, which included shoes and clothes. The total number of children at the orphanage is 1500. During his radio crossovers, Vadi lamented that Somali orphanage number were as large as those holding Syrian refugees in Turkey, which have been amongst the largest in the world.
The teams then proceeded to another area to deliver emergency relief packs which included rice, flour, oil, sugar and dates. 3000 recipients were identified as more deserving than others for these packs.
The Turkish government and NGO’s such as the Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) have been instrumental in facilitating relief aid to Somalia. They have initiated development programmes which included the construction of an airport runway and hospitals. They have also improved the system for entry into Somalia, so that Somalians returning home can land in Mogadishu with fewer obstacles. This improvement has reduced the inconvenience experienced by humanitarian groups to gain entry into Somalia.
Some of the factors which have led to these deplorable conditions and deadly famine in Somalia include the many internal battles being fought by various groups including Al Shabaab, the lack of a stable government in the last 20 years, the impact of the agendas of other countries, fights between politicians, drought and flash floods.
A suicide bombing and gun battle at a plush restaurant left 31 people dead just before the SA aid group reached Mogadishu.
Amidst the destitution, Islam is a source of peace, unity and security. Vadi described that Mogadishu is host to a vibrant Muslim community. He referred to Somalis as people of Quraan. The sounds of multiple adhaans, or calls to prayer that ring out from mosques across the world, could be heard echoing throughout Mogadishu at prayer times, including at tahajjud (pre-dawn prayer). Thereafter the entire prayer was broadcasted over the loudspeaker in voices “more beautiful than one can imagine.”
Amidst the depravity and desolation, the people’s devotion to religion and their determination to survive was heartwarming. The members of the team who have witnessed the unfailing spirits of the Somali people were touched and vowed to continue assisting in the best of ways. Visit www.alimdaad.com to make a contribution.