Aug 04, 2011 • By

Famine deepens in Somalia

On July 20, the United Nations declared a famine in southern Somalia. This marks the first time the agency has done so in the 20 years since drought last devastated Ethiopia and the rest of this region. The crisis deepened yesterday as the UN declared a famine in three more areas of Somalia.

Two years of severe drought have devastated livestock and crops in East Africa. Families are without food to eat. More than 11 million people are at risk—2 million are malnourished kids under age 5. Every day, thousands are fleeing their homes to seek help in Kenya, Ethiopia and Mogadishu, Somalia’s largest city. Traveling for weeks at a time on foot, they arrive exhausted, hungry and sick.

Through our General Mills Foundation, we wanted to help and do what we do best, which is provide hunger relief to children and their families.

We have partnered with the American Refugee Committee (ARC), a humanitarian organization based in the Twin Cities that has a team in Somalia distributing food in the nation’s capital of Mogadishu. ARC is the only major group operating in Mogadishu, where tens of thousands of families have fled to find help.

“An essential ingredient of being a global corporate business is being a global corporate citizen. As our Foundation is committed to unleashing the power of food to nourish families worldwide, this crisis – which clearly calls for leadership in both of those areas – is one we can’t ignore,” says Jeff Peterson, director of Innovation and Strategy for the General Mills Foundation.

The General Mills Foundation plans to donate up to $100,000 in support to ARC to speed famine relief efforts to the millions of Somalis on the brink of starvation. An initial $50,000 donation has been made to ARC. To encourage further corporate giving, the General Mills Foundation has offered to match contributions from other companies in our headquarters of the Twin Cities, up to $50,000, that support ARC’s relief work in Somalia.

“General Mills focuses its philanthropic work on hunger, and our hearts go out to those in need in Somalia. We hope our gift will inspire others to support those in need of food,” says Ellen Goldberg Luger, vice president and General Mills Foundation executive director.

Donations help ARC provide families in Somalia with emergency food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care. ARC is working closely with the Somali Drought Relief Commission, the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA), and other local organizations in Mogadishu to provide aid to hungry Somalis housed in camps in their nation’s capital. And, they are encouraging corporations and private citizens to help.

“Our teams on the ground in Somalia describe the unimaginable: stories of parents making agonizing decisions to save their children … stories of people walking for 30 days to find food. Conditions are dire,” says Daniel Wordsworth, president of the American Refugee Committee. “We’re pleased that General Mills stepped forward with an incredibly generous leadership donation to leverage the support of our whole community. These contributions will save lives.”

What does success look like?

In the short-term, success is only about saving lives—as many lives as possible. Going forward, success will mean creating a future where people are less vulnerable to drought.

To lend your support to ending the famine in Somalia, visit the donation page on the ARC website.

Editor’s note: The photo is from the American Refugee Committee. You can see a report about the famine in Somalia, and the General Mills Foundation’s donation, on the website of the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis.