MN’s Somali community raise funds for families affected by East Africa drought

Minneapolis Somali community members and humanitarian relief organizations are working to send money to families in Somalia affected by a severe drought.

American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa Program Director Mohamad Sheikomer speaks to a donor at his office in Columbia Heights on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. ARAHA collects and disperses funds to local offices in Somalia to build hand pump water wells and to distribute food to help citizens during the current drought.

Chelsea Gortmaker

American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa Program Director Mohamad Sheikomer speaks to a donor at his office in Columbia Heights on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. ARAHA collects and disperses funds to local offices in Somalia to build hand pump water wells and to distribute food to help citizens during the current drought.

Ryan Faircloth

Members of the Minneapolis Somali community and African relief organizations are mobilizing to raise money for a humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

Local Somalis have raised tens of thousands of dollars to provide assistance for the northern area of the country including regions such as Somaliland and Puntland. That area has experienced below-average rainfall for the past two years which has increased food insecurity and loss of livestock.

Five million people in Somalia currently require humanitarian assistance, according to a report released last month by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“Alarm bells are ringing throughout the community in terms of the severity of the drought,” said Ward 6 City Council Member Abdi Warsame.

Many in the community is raising money and trying to create more awareness, he said.

Duraan Ali, regional manager for the Humanitarian African Relief Organization, said his group raised around $30,000 this year from the Minneapolis Somali community and those in greater Minnesota.

Members of HARO visit East African community centers and local mosques to ask for donations, he said.

They held a small event at a Minneapolis community center last week where they received a $20,000 check from a local Somali organization, Ali said.

HARO also conducted emergency relief work during Somalia’s severe drought and famine in 2011, he said, which killed nearly 260,000 people.

“We’re getting a lot of help, but at the same time it’s coming slow, although the drought is going fast,” Ali said.

American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa — another fundraising group — collects money from online donations, annual events and community members who’ve come together to raise money on their own, said Mohamad Sheikomer, ARAHA’s program director.

“It’s an ongoing effort,” he said.

The money ARAHA raises is transferred from Wells Fargo to two international banks in Somalia, he said. But to get the funds to more remote areas of the country, Sheikomer said the group has to bypass some hurdles.

ARAHA has an office in Mogadishu that transfers the money to local, unofficial banks that are able to distribute the funds to rural regions without bank access, he said.

Previously, the Minnesota Daily reported that similar fundraising efforts were hampered by difficulties with federal regulation.

Now, 95 percent of the money ARAHA collects makes it to families suffering from the drought, Sheikomer said, while the other 5 percent pays for transfer fees.

Many people in the Minneapolis community are also conducting their own efforts online, Ali said, and he’s seen a few GoFundMe campaigns that have had success.

“I’ve seen almost three of them raising about $20,000, about $15,000 and another one was $10,000,” he said.