August 19, 2017

World Humanitarian Day 2017 – Fighting Famine in Somalia

By Megan Guilfoyle

Ten years ago, most humanitarian assistance was deployed to natural disasters. Today, 80 percent of assistance provides relief in conflict zones and fragile states. This means that as the hundreds of thousands of relief workers work to save lives around the world, they’re increasingly doing so in far more dangerous places and at much greater personal risk.

These are the people that we pay tribute to on World Humanitarian Day – a moment to honor humanitarian workers on the frontlines and shine a spotlight on those who have been affected by crisis. And this moment may never have been more relevant than today with the world facing the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Right now there are more than 20 million people in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen in need of emergency assistance in the fight against famine. In Somalia alone, close to 6.7 million people are suffering from a food crisis. And due to the brutal civil war with al-Shabaab alongside severe drought and food insecurity, nearly 1.9 million Somalis have already fled their homes. This nation, located in the Horn of Africa, is a prime example of how conflict and insurgencies like al-Shabaab can bring a country to the brink of collapse and why supporting our humanitarian workers is so vital.

Credit: Jennifer Bose/CARE

Four months ago, Asha, a 50-year-old Somali mother, was forced to leave her home after the devastating drought killed 90 percent of her livestock and left her family without food, water, or income. Making her way to the Ainabo internal displacement camp, she hoped to find enough money to help meet her family’s basic needs and to send her six children back to school.

At the camp, CARE USA staff offered Asha along with many other women the opportunity for temporary employment through a “cash for work” program. Asha was assigned the responsibility of cleaning a waterhole so that rainwater could be preserved for the community, and she and other participants received $100 every 18 days. While this may not sound like a lot of money, it has made a significant difference.

“When I first came to the camp there was nothing – no water, no food, no work. I’m really glad that I can participate in the cash for work program now and earn enough to even send it back to my family” –Asha

This “cash for work” project had its roots in a program going back to 2013, when CARE partnered with USAID on an integrated initiative to provide humanitarian, economic, and protection assistance for nearly 100,000 internally displaced people in Somalia. With support from USAID, CARE staff helped to not only provided basic relief supplies but also economic recovery, nutrition support, protection against gender-based violence, and new water and sanitation systems. One of the most innovative and successful parts of the program was this “cash for work” project that focused on providing not just a hand-out, but a hand-up through microfinance opportunities and short-term employment.

Stories like Asha’s and the life-saving support that CARE is providing with resources from USAID demonstrate the value that our humanitarian programs and workers bring to those living through crisis every single day. Yet with one in every two Somalis currently in need of humanitarian assistance, Asha’s story reminds us this World Humanitarian Day just how important it is for our nation and the world continue the fight against famine in some of the world’s most dangerous places.