Local agency says more funds needed for Somalia

TAMARA SHEPHARD


Canada is being urged by a leading Somali-Canadian agency to respond to the decimated village of Hafun, Somalia, the region in Africa hardest hit by the tsunami.
While a global outpouring saw humanitarian efforts in Thailand and Sri Lanka, Africa has been largely ignored, maintains Osman Ali, president of the Somali-Canadian Association of Etobicoke.

"We're pleading with Canadians, and the rest of the world, not to repeat this oversight," he said Tuesday, in his office in Thistletown Multi-Services Centre. "The money (billions donated globally to tsunami relief) is not getting to the remote-affected areas like Hafun. Canada is well known in Somalia; even Hafun children are asking why do we not respond?

"We need to keep our tradition of helping the poorest of the poor."

In January, Ali witnessed the Hafun devastation first-hand when he spent five days conducting a needs assessment at the request of Prime Minister Paul Martin.

He expects to file his report to the PMO in two weeks, he said.

RELIEF SUMMIT

Ali's mission to Somalia follows a call by the South African government made at the recent United Nation's relief summit in Indonesia that the scope of the tsunami disaster response be broadened to include affected communities in Africa such as Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius.

Canada has committed up to $425 million toward a comprehensive package of disaster relief measures and rehabilitation assistance. A special ministerial tsunami relief task force of cabinet is directing and assessing Canada's ongoing relief and reconstruction efforts.

The death toll in Hafun is estimated at 157, most of them women, children and the elderly who could not outrun the killer waves and head to the mountains, Ali said. The Dec. 26 tsunami engulfed the Puntland State coast, obliterated some 650 homes, three of five area mosques and destroyed dozens of fishing vessels.

"The devastation is unbelievable," Ali said, while flipping through photographs, and watching video footage he shot during the mission. "There are no boats, houses, stores, restaurants. There is nothing left."

Puntland state government estimates the damage at more than $23 million. Ninety per cent of the state of Puntland's fishing exports to India were lost, as thousands lost their fishing businesses, reported Puntland president Mohamoud Musse Hirsi in a Jan. 16 memo.

For some, the loss is total, and profound.

When the tsunami hit, Hawa Mohamed grabbed her two daughters, and her mother and headed to the mountains, Ali recalled. Her husband, a boat mechanic, carried their son, and went home to pick up a few belongings.

She never saw them alive again.

Currently, UNICEF is meeting Mohamed's family's basic needs.

"People there keep hearing, 'help is on the way.' But no help is coming," Ali said, while quickly adding both UNICEF and the United Nations' World Food Program were on the ground, assisting people in Hafun with food, medicine and blankets the day after the tsunami.

Presently, CARE and the Red Crescent are on the ground doing assessments, Ali said.

Many people have nothing but the clothes on their back.

"'I was very comfortable, raising my children,'" people say. "'Now, all of a sudden, I have not a penny. How will I feed my children their next meal?'"

Orphans are being 'adopted' by neighbours. There is no social safety net in the area: no services, no welfare, Ali said.

Thundering waves 12- to 14-feet high first crashed the coast of Puntland at 12:05 p.m. Dec. 26.

"The sea went inland for miles and miles; the city disappeared," said Ali, relating survivors' accounts. "People thought it was doomsday... Then, they heard boom. They thought it was a nuclear bomb."

Lobsters and sharks, a staple of local fisheries, lay flapping on the ground.

Despite the fact the tsunami hit first in southeast Asia, Africans were unprepared. While tens of thousands died in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, reports indicated Africans also died: 200 Somalis, 10 Tanzanians and one Kenyan.


SOURCE: INSIDETORONTO

 
 
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