UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Somalia Aid Lifts Learning

By David Tereshchuk *

April 2, 2012—Without an effective government now for more than twenty years, Somalia is ranked by the United Nations as one of the world’s least developed countries.

Civil war has been raging without end, and 2011 brought famine to much of the country, in the wake of the drought that afflicted the entire Horn of Africa. This was assessed as the region’s worst food crisis in more than half a century.

The recent drought has most disastrously affected areas controlled by Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s rebel movement linked to Al-Qaeda. Hundreds of thousands of families moved out to find refuge across the country’s borders, and many moved within the country to territory closer to the capital, Mogadishu. There, more orderly conditions offered the chance of reliable shelter and a supply of food.

Camps for internally displaced persons (IDP), established with international aid, have sprouted almost like new cities, although the homes and neighborhoods are makeshift and temporary and lack all basic amenities.

In Somalia, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has an established practice of collaborating with global partners well-placed to work with the country’s predominantly Muslim populations. A new grant from UMCOR has just gone to the Turkey-based Islamic aid organization, International Blue Crescent (IBC), which among other projects is providing monthly food packages, psychosocial support, and care for severely malnourished children and mothers with newborns.

The new UMCOR grant supports IBC’s efforts in an IDP camp at Korsan, near Mogadishu. Through it, 500 children and 13 teachers at four primary schools will acquire basic tools and equipment for improved learning, including school kits, blackboards, desks, chairs, playground materials, and school sanitation and hygiene materials. UMCOR’s grant will also support teachers’ salaries.

It will help reverse situations such as that faced by Nastexa Farax, a teacher at one of the schools.

Farex is only 17 years old and just recently graduated from high school herself. She teaches math, Arabic, and science to 40 children, all of whom lack textbooks and exercise books. They also have no desks – which Farex explains can cause special learning problems. “They sit on the ground,” she says, “and this makes it hard for them to concentrate during lessons because they get bitten by insects.”

IBC’s vice-president, Muzaffer Baca, acknowledges the importance of cross-agency collaboration, with both UMCOR and his group’s local implementing partners. “These projects demonstrate our continuing commitment to support Somalia’s people as they strive to find a lasting solution to decades of conflict. We’re glad to be helping to create smiling faces in Somalia.”

You can help children and their families in IDP camps in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, with a gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450. Please earmark your check “Horn of Africa Crisis.” 

 * David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to UMCOR.org.

You can help children and their families in IDP camps in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, with a gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450. Please earmark your check “Horn of Africa Crisis.”

Nastexa Farax, 17, teaches 40 children in an UMCOR-supported camp for displaced persons near Mogadishu, Somalia.
Nastexa Farax, 17, teaches 40 children in an UMCOR-supported camp for displaced persons near Mogadishu, Somalia.
Courtesy of IBC