Area Somalis Disheartened By Low U.S. Interest In Famine

By Phillip Martin

Aug. 5, 2011

A Somali family relocates to the UNHCR's Ifo Extention camp set outside Dadaab, eastern Kenya, near the Somali border on Friday. The camp has been set to provide for Somali famine refugees. (AP)

BOSTON — The five to ten thousand Somalis living in Boston are trying to respond from afar to news of a devastating famine in their homeland.

This week, the United Nations estimated 30,000 children have died from famine and drought that are spreading across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Aid organizations believe that 3.2 million people in Somalia alone are in danger of starvation and dehydration.

Abdul Lahe Abdul Rahman owns of Butterfly Coffee, a café across the street from the Islamic Society and Mosque in Roxbury. He has family in Somalia, and has been helping to organize fundraising and donations.

"People send money to their families through me. People are here to support their families back home. We been doing now fundraising and donations," Rahman said.

Oxfam America's Boston office has dedicated its full staff to the crisis, said the organization's humanitarian director, Mike Delaney.

"There is nothing that an Oxfam worker is doing that is more important than responding to the Horn of Africa right now. To show you how quickly this is expanding, a week ago, we were gearing up to aid 20,000 people at a camp in Ethiopia. The UN suggested that we make it 60,000. So today there are 75,000 people in that camp. One week! So every time we are doing an assessment the numbers are growing," Delaney said.

Yet Rahman said he's frustrated by how few people outside of the aid community and East African diaspora seem to have been moved by the famine sweeping across his homeland.

"When Haiti had the earthquake, the whole world got up, especially the United States. Even I was part of it; helping the community of Haiti. But I don’t see that support from the other communities or the state or the cities or the neighbors or the country," Rahman said.

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