Somali women wait at a Mogadishu camp.

Somali women wait at a Mogadishu camp.

October 3, 2011

TORONTO — As the curtain came down on 10 weeks of double-your-money matching donations for famine relief in East Africa, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had raised approximately $4.7 million.

More than 13 million people face possible starvation in Horn of Africa countries, including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. More than two years of drought and crop failure in the region have been compounded by political chaos in Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are on the move in the region.

Development and Peace will put donations to work in both short-term, emergency feeding and medical care through the Caritas network and longer-term projects to support farming.

"Our focus is to respond to the immediate needs of the people of the Horn of Africa, but we also want to look at supporting projects that can make a difference in the long run, so that communities don't have to keep facing critical hunger like this," said Development and Peace spokeswoman Kelly Di Domenico in an email.

"I want to thank the Canadian public. They've really responded in hard economic times," said Canadian Somali Congress national president Ahmed Hussen as CIDA's matching program came to a close Sept. 16.

Staff at the Canadian International Development Agency couldn't say how much the government's pledge to match charitable donations had raised as the program came to a close.

More than $35 million was counted 10 days before the deadline. Final numbers on donations eligible for matching funds will be available early in October.

Outside of matching funds, the federal government has contributed $72 million to the East Africa Drought Relief Fund.

While Somalia obviously needs immediate help, it also needs the international community to support a viable, responsible government, said Hussen.

"There needs to be a deeper discussion on issues of governance in Somalia — not just about the famine as an episodic thing," Hussen told The Catholic Register. "Instead of responding to famines every couple of years, it's better to support people who would be put in anti-famine programs."

Somalia has been without a viable government for more than 20 years. In the absence of government, warlords and extremist movements have imposed their rule in parts of the country.

One of the most powerful groups, the mujahideen of al-Shabaab, has at various times banned foreign aid and diverted aid for its purposes.

The international community needs to step in and support a real government, said Hussen. Hussen cites Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor as examples of nation building by the international community that worked.


Rather than governance and democracy, Development and Peace is focusing its long-term strategy on support for small-scale farming and advocating for international trade rules to allow African farmers to make an adequate living.

"WTO rules force developing countries to open up their markets to these food imports, which essentially undermines local food production," said Mary Durran, head of Development and Peace's advocacy and research department.

Free-wheeling speculation on commodity markets has also contributed to fragility in food supply and wild price swings, making it impossible for small farmers to make a living, Durran said.