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Food & Hunger

Two Minnesotans Raised More Than $92K for Somalia Famine Relief

While it’s true that people generally use the internet for the purposes of trivial entertainment, spending hours mindlessly browsing through social media and cat videos, the power of the technology to help people in need cannot be overstated.

Liban Adam is living proof.

Along with his high school friend Kali Mohamed, Adam is using his online popularity for a humanitarian cause: raising funds for famine relief in Somalia. A social media campaign they started last February raised more than $92K in one month from more than 2,000 donors.

How did they do it? The key is social media.

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Two years ago, the Minneapolis, Minnesota native spent six weeks in Somalia, documenting the trip on Facebook, PRI reported. His experience helped him build an internet following of more than 21,000 people.

After a Facebook live event last March, donations for their Somali Famine Relief 2017 campaign more than doubled from $3,000 to $8,000 in just 24 hours. After that, Adam estimates the campaign averaged 4,000 per day until it reached its almost-six-figure mark.

Read More: There Is a Famine Crisis in Africa — Here's How You Can Help

The effort saw exponential improvement from the previous 2016 fundraising campaign which raised more than $13,000 in 5 months.

Adam believes the instant access that the internet provides is key in engaging with the community and securing funds: “The people are engaged, the comments are real-time comments, and there’s the algorithm on Facebook,” he said. “As soon as you go live, everyone, the first thing they see – 20,000, 30,000 people that follow you – the first thing they see is you.”

More than 6 million people in Somalia are in urgent need of aid, according to the United Nations, and Adam is not alone in answering the call for help.

Last March, Colin Kaepernick joined a similar crowdfunding campaign with French social media star Jerome Jarre to finance a 60-ton cargo plane, which will fly food and water to Somalia.

The band Pearl Jam recently pledged $75,000 to alleviate famine in Somalia, as well as in South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen.

More than 40 restaurants in Minnesota’s Twin Cities and one in Salt Lake City, Utah donated half of a day’s profits to help victims of drought in Somalia.

Read More: Funds to Help Nigeria’s Famine Will Run Out by June, UN Official Says

On the NGO front, the Minneapolis-based American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA) has reached more than 2 million people in the region through sending roughly 700,000 food baskets and building more than 280 wells.

Minnesota’s connection to the Somalia relief efforts is no coincidence.

Africans compose 21% of Minnesota’s foreign-born population, according to Pew Research Center, due primarily to the state’s growing Somali population. The diaspora has created a strong base for international relief efforts in the area who want to help family members back home.

ARAHA also relies on social media to reach a mainstream audience of potential donors, Mohamad Sheikomer, the organization’s Program Director, wrote to Global Citizen in an email. Other essential fundraising methods include partnering with communal organizations like mosques, churches, synagogues, schools and student organizations, and continuously providing donors with feedback like reports, data, and videos.

Read More: 14 Photos of Staggering Famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen

The inspiring efforts by ARAHA and Adam will deliver desperately-needed food and water to the people of Somalia. But the approach is short-term.

Conflict can make the prospect of relieving the situation seem hopeless —  last March, a Red Cross official claimed famine is a by-product of conflict, and will persist as long as fighting continues — but ARAHA maintains it’s not impossible. Governments and NGOs need to respond.

“Yes there could be hope to reduce and alleviate the famine while conflict still exists in Somalia, though it depends the intensity of the conflict,” Sheikomer wrote. “In Somalia what further maximizes the negative impact of the famine/drought is the late response of humanitarian organizations. That affects more than the conflict.”