On a bright Sunday afternoon in Hyde Park, hundreds of people were relaxing with their friends before facing another hectic Monday, but a group of young people in the park were there for a different reason. They were raising money for victims of the east African drought before the start of Ramadan, the month-long period of fasting for Muslims.
On July 31st, the day before Ramadan began, Suraya, Naima, and Nafisa, three University students, created a sporting event and fundraiser. They organized the fundraiser before Ramadan to raise money for the millions of the drought victims, many of whom, will be fasting this month despite not having enough food to break their fasts at sunset. While sitting down with the organizers, they told me why fundraising for drought victims across east Africa is so important right now.
"It's not just happening in Somalia... it's all of east Africa. Obviously, being a Somali myself, I would feel for my people. But at the moment, the way I feel is not just about being Somali or being a Muslim because some of those people are from different religious backgrounds but it's just about being a human being and feeling their pain," said Naima Ragge, a 22 year old, biomedical student at Middlesex University. "With Somalia being in a state of war, it makes it even more worse," she added.
Naima and her friend, Nafisa, still have family in Somalia. Their families are business-oriented and therefore, do not live in the rural areas where the drought is effecting people. "My family are okay, I have some family living in Somalia but its the people that are farm-based, in agriculture, the people that depend on the rain, they're suffering the most," said Nafisa Dahir, 23, a student at Middlesex University.
More than 10 million people are facing drought in parts of Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda, according to the Red Cross. This past September and October, the region saw the driest months it has seen in years. At the same time, livestock production decreased rapidly and now parts of Somalia are facing famine. The Disasters Emergency Committee says more than 30% of children in the region are malnourished, one of the highest rates in the world, which is double the international threshold for a nutrition emergency. With nowhere else to go, drought victims are now fleeing into war-torn Mogadishu to find food.
At a time when the Guardian states that only half of the funds needed by Somalia and Ethiopia to alleviate the situation, has been pledged, Suraya Arman, Nafisa, and Naima’s efforts are much needed. While watching TV on a Friday night together, they saw the images of the victims of drought in Somalia and decided to take action. Within a week, they organized a fun day at their local mosque. When the event fell through, the girls organized the sporting event at Hyde Park but eventually organized 6 stalls for a fun day at Al-Mutada Islami mosque in Fulham which saw 100 people raise £1,535.10 in one day. This was donated to the African Development Trust for the drought victims of east Africa. The girls still held their second fundraising event which raised over £100.
At the fundraising tournament in Hyde Park, the women who attended the event discussed how it was beneficial for drought victims but also a good bonding event for young people. Elizabeth Simpson was playing badminton and enjoying snacks. "It's a really good way to raise money. It's good for bonding and sisterhood." Close by, a large group of young men were playing a football tournament to raise money for the drought victims, and together there were almost 30 young people at the event. The organizers are concerned for the future of east Africa.
"There's people being buried and there's no water to wash them", said Nafisa. Now, the question remains, why did media companies wait until the drought started leading to famine, to raise money and alert the general public for the drought victims? And how can we avoid this in the future?