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Somalia crisis hits home in Prince Edward Island.

undefinedHalkaan ka akhri

Her grandmother, who lives in relative security in the nation’s capital of Mogadishu, just informed Fatima Jama that some of her cousins have died in the famine.

the guardian

Living in Charlottetown has not shielded Fatima Jama from the painful toll of Somalia‘s growing famine crisis.

Her grandmother, who lives in relative security in the nation’s capital of Mogadishu, just informed Jama that family members living in more dangerous parts of the country are not faring so well.

“It’s kind of sad,” said Jama, 19, who came to P.E.I. from Somalia more than two years ago as a refugee.

“I have cousins there and some of them have died.”

The cause of their deaths, she explains, is the famine.

The UN officially declared famine in two southern Somalia regions Wednesday as the world slowly mobilized to save 12 million people battling hunger in the region’s worst drought in 60 years.

The United States urged al-Qaida-inspired Shebab rebels controlling the area to allow the return of relief groups they expelled two years ago, while aid groups warned many would die without urgent action and funding.

Somalia, which has been affected by almost uninterrupted conflict for 20 years and become a byword for failed state, is the worst affected nation but parts of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti are also hit.

A UN definition of famine entails that at least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition in over 30 percent of people, and two deaths per 10,000 people every day.

Donations to the Canadian Red Cross relief efforts in Somalia can be made by going online at http://www.redcross.ca, by calling toll free at 1-800-418-1111, or by going to the office at 62 Prince St. in Charlottetown.

Laura Johnson-Montigny, P.E.I. director for the Canadian Red Cross, urges Islanders to help sooner rather than later.

“I think it is really important to act now to mitigate the damage in the earlier stages (of the crisis),” she said.

“The quicker we can mobilize and deploy supplies, the better off those people are over there.”

Johnson-Montigny says there was an influx of donations Friday with many Islanders donating online but also several coming in to the office to write a cheque or hand over cash.

One donation came from a little girl, age five or six. She was walking down the street and found three coins. She handed over the money saying she wanted to help the babies in Somalia.

“That was touching,” said Johnson-Montigny.

Jama, who has embraced P.E.I., does not want to lose touch with Somalia. She is following the disturbing images of the growing hardship facing her people in this long-troubled African country.

Her own past is also one of harsh suffering. Her mother died of poor health when Jama was young. Her father, a policeman, was shot dead almost a decade ago.

Jama is doing her part to raise funds to assist the drought victims in Somalia.

“It’s my country and my cousins,” she said.

Donations can also be made to Donations and Peace, which is organized at the grass roots level throughout Canada including in P.E.I. through the Diocesan Council for Development and Peace.

The organization has a long track record of effective development and relief work resulting in the organization raising the third largest amount of money in Canada for victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Donations can be made at 1-888-664-3387 or online at http://www.devp.org or by sending a cheque made out to Development and Peace and indicating Horn of Africa Drought.

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