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Somalia: It seems that the world has forgotten

It’s pouring down sheets of rain and wet marks are starting to form on the ceiling tiles above me. It’s 7pm on a Friday night and we’re all still in the office.

My hands are pale white from the sudden cold of the storm, but I type ever faster, finishing updated key messages for journalists and supporters about the humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

“The crisis in Somalia has not yet peaked. Rainy season has just begun, leaving hundreds of thousands of people, their bodies weakened by hunger, vulnerable to waterborne and respiratory disease,” I write.

Guilt

My shoulders hunch up with the all-too-familiar creeping weight of aid worker’s guilt. A thunderclap booms and my first thought is “I’m so glad I’m inside.”

My eyes flick up to the blustering leaves in the yard and I’m completely lost in memory of the photograph I saw earlier today, of Somali women and children, rail-thin and huddled under cardboard boxes, as the same rains pelt Mogadishu, Somalia.

Working round the clock

I know we have hundreds of Somali staff spread across the country, working around the clock to provide over 180,000 people with food, water, medical care, sanitation facilities, and safe spaces for children to play and learn as they recover from malnutrition.

I know those of us here in Nairobi have an important role to play too – obtaining and managing funds to run our programs, ensuring supplies move from factories and fields around the world to hungry Somalis, providing health workers and engineers with technical guidance from our experts to do their jobs in horribly difficult working conditions.

We’re on the phone and writing emails with our Somali staff constantly: “How are you feeling? Did you get caught in that IED in Mogadishu? Do you need more saline bags for rehydrating sick patients?”

I try to channel positive thoughts about how I support our staff in Somalia, focusing on how my job, seemingly small, can actually make a difference for them.

I see my work as if on a flow chart: I communicate to journalists and supporters how tremendous the needs are; we receive donations for our work; our staff deliver aid supplies in Somalia; I communicate back out to journalists and supporters about how the aid response is going.

Pep talking myself, I duck my head back to my computer screen. I think furiously about how to best get across to journalists and our supporters back home the severity of this crisis, even as news of Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia grabs every headline.

Forgotten

It seems that the world has forgotten that four million people Somalia still don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

When I turn on the TV news at night (the guilt again, I have a TV), the European debt crisis and a winter storm in New York and the Australian airline workers’ strike are the top stories. I look back at my key messages on Somalia.

“The aid response isn’t meeting the need. We must urgently scale up our programs to ensure we save as many lives as possible.”

Seconds tick by as I waver between the pep talk narrative in my head and the heavy chunk of frustration in my stomach. This is Save the Children’s Somalia emergency response and non-Somalis like me can’t be based in the parts of Somalia worst affected by this food crisis.

I mentally flip back to our South Central Somalia field coordinator’s gentle smile. That man is in the thick of it every day, saving children’s lives – I need to stay positive to help him, any way I can.

Enormity of the crisis

I hunker back down over my computer. I will the flooding waters in the street outside to inspire me to write more powerful words.

I want the rest of the world to feel the enormity of crisis, to not turn their backs, to honor Somalis’ life and death struggle with attention and support. So I type and I think and I type, and still the rain pours down.

This post was by Julie Schindall, Media & Advocacy Manager for Save the Children Somalia/Somaliland

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