Guest Post: Amanda Lindhout, GEF
In 2011 the worst drought in over 60 years ravaged East Africa- producing crop failures, killing off livestock and sending millions from their homes in search of water and food. No country was hit harder then Somalia. In July, the United Nations declared the food crisis in Somalia a famine, stating it was “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world” with 750,000 Somali people expected to die from hunger before the end of the year.
After more then 20 years of ongoing war and disaster, human suffering in Somalia is not a new story. But this summer, the tragic images of a nation starving to death struck a cord with many.
I did not learn of the famine through the news media as most of the world did. Instead, I was in the midst of it, witnessing the suffering and starvation before it became a headline story.
As the Founder and Executive Director of the Global Enrichment Foundation (GEF) I’d travelled to Somalia’s border, to the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab. It was July and deadly hot in the dusty, sprawling camp. 1,800 Somali people a day were pouring across the border in search of food, many of them having walked for up to four weeks to get there. To see masses of starving children is something that one can never forget. These images make us ask ourselves the most fundamental questions about our responsibility to help one another.
The Convoy For Hope program was created as my organization’s response. Food needed to get into Somalia and we were one of the first organizations able to enter Somalia with a mass food distribution program. Not long after we began, the GEF received a phone call. The CEO of Chobani, Hamdi Ulakaya, wanted to get food to the people of Somalia and he wanted to make sure it would go to the most needy. He wanted to know, “could we help?”
Chobani’s motto is ‘nothing but good’ – and it’s true. Chobani’s Shepherd’s Gift Foundation pledged $1 million dollars for famine relief in Somalia to feed over 200,000 people.
On December 21-25, 2011 while many people around the world were celebrating the holidays with food and gifts, the first of five Convoy’s for Hope sponsored by Chobani rolled out in Somalia’s capital city and the epi-center of the crisis, Mogadishu. Food packages containing enough vitamin enriched food to last two weeks reached 40,000 people. Families in Mogadishu’s overcrowded internally displaced people’s camps stood in line for hours. At the Banadir Hospital mothers and their children being treated for malnourishment received sacks of food. At a makeshift orphanage that has sprung up in the wake of the crisis food was given for over 500 children, most of them under the age of 5.
Our team reported that they were overwhelmed by the gratitude of the Somali people. For those suffering from famine, the difference between life and death can be a few bowls of vitamin- enriched porridge. The Global Enrichment Foundation extends their gratitude to Chobani. We are proud and honored to work with a company that cares about people around the world and is actively involved in saving lives.
As our team prepares for the second Chobani Convoy for Hope this week, we know there is a lot more gratitude coming their way.