As the drought in the horn of Africa worsens — with an estimated 20 million people set to be affected in the next three to four months — Minnesota restaurant owners are taking action to raise funds to provide food for those affected.
More than 40 restaurants across the Twin Cities, as well as one restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah, will donate a portion of their profits Friday to benefit the victims of the drought in Somalia. Many of these restaurants will donate as much as half of today’s profits to charities providing food aid to Somalia, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Spearheaded by the owner of Afro Deli, Abdirahman Kahin, the initiative, called “Dine Out for Somalia” aims to raise $150,000 in one day.
The initiative comes at an important time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 6 million people in Somalia are in “urgent need” of humanitarian assistance, with 3 million facing food insecurity and 1.5 million already affected by drought conditions.
In 2011, droughts in Somalia led to more than a quarter of a million deaths. And without humanitarian assistance, history will repeat itself.
“People are dying for lack of water, lack of food,” Kahin told Global Citizen. “Here in the States we have so much food, and so much food goes to waste, so we want to bring awareness to people of what’s going on in Africa.”
Kahin was able to rally local business owners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Somali community, one of the largest in the country, to contribute in a big way.
He’s not the only one. The organization Feed My Starving Children, headquartered in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, pledged to provide as many as 10 million meals to those suffering from famine in Africa this year alone. A student at Hamline University in St. Paul, Khalid Mohamed, started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for people in Somalia after speaking to his mother on the phone — raising $60,000 in 10 days.
“Without the help of the diaspora, maybe millions of people would have died by now,” Kahin said.
Another restaurateur in Minneapolis, Burhan Melmi — owner of Capitol Cafe — told Global Citizen that humanitarian assistance is especially critical for Somalia, because of the country’s reliance on livestock. When famine hit Somalia in 2011, he said, “it crippled their livestock.”
“Livestock is their wealth [in Somalia],” Melmi said. “Whatever we can do to save people and their wealth, we will.”
At the end of today, restaurant owners will pool the money they’ve raised and will work with around 8 organizations in total to distribute the funds, Kahin said.
That includes ARAHA — the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa — which has already distributed nearly 700,000 food baskets and built more than 250 wells in the region.
For Kahin, the impetus to give back to the Somali community was obvious.
“I’m a human being, I’m a humanitarian, I’m a Somali, and I feel the pain of those people,” he said. “I have the time, I have the means to bring people together, so why don’t I use that leverage to save lives?”