Washington, DC – Bono, U2 lead singer and cofounder of ONE (www.one.org), the global anti-poverty advocacy group, and K’naan, the Somali-born singer and poet, met last evening with members of the Somali community in Minneapolis to discuss the growing famine in the Horn of Africa, where a food crisis is threatening the lives of 11.6 million men, women and children according to the UN. After the meeting, during U2’s performance in Minneapolis, Bono and K’naan performed a duet of “Stand by Me” in solidarity with the people of Somalia. Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota are home to the largest concentration of Somalis in the United States.
The United Nations declared a famine in parts of Somalia this week. The lack of food and water in Somalia, brought on by the worst drought in 60 years and exacerbated by the lack of any governing structure following decades of conflict, has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee the country, often on foot. Families are walking for days to reach refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, with thousands dying along the way. Camps in neighboring countries are already attempting to service three times their capacity, with thousands more arriving every day.
ONE is calling on world leaders to do two things in the face of this emergency:
1.) Take immediate action to address the current humanitarian crisis by filling a $1 billion funding gap that will allow the U.N. and charitable organizations on the ground to run the refugee camps, stop disease outbreaks and secure routes that will ensure the safe delivery of food aid. The UN currently has only half of the funding needed to address the crisis and prevent it from spreading.
2.) Invest in smart, effective agriculture policies, such as the U.S. Administration’s Feed the Future initiative. These programs will help empower African farmers with technical knowledge about seed varietals, farming techniques and disaster planning for natural shocks that will help prevent famine in the future and increase agricultural productivity, which will spur economic growth and reduce endemic poverty.
Following the meeting, Bono said: “The crisis in the Horn is going to be solved by Somalis taking control, taking charge. I’m here, and ONE is here, to listen and learn and to serve their efforts. We’re here to sound the alarm bell in the United States, where there has been very little media coverage of the food crisis — and now a famine which is threatening the lives and livelihoods of 12 million. This is monstrous. Pay close attention, this is a defining moment for the world. History will be very harsh if we don’t move quickly. There is a crisis summit on Monday in Rome. World leaders in the region and around the globe must step in and do their part to address the immediate crisis, and to invest in long-term agriculture development so we can finally stop the cycle of famine on the continent.”
K’naan said: “I am deeply saddened by what’s happening in my country, and in the region in general. But at the moment I am also incredibly energized by a new sense of optimism. We are seeing a new generation of young leaders who will not take the victim’s seat, but who instead stand proudly with an activated devotion to help their own. This is not the famine of old, this time, we will do the rescuing, but we cannot do it alone and are counting on the support of our brothers and sisters who are in the position to assist us. Think of this as an opportunity to fertilize a new African legacy. Let us together remove the psychological fence surrounding the hearts of the world. This is as important as life itself.”
Joining Bono and K’naan in the meeting were Mohammed Idris, Executive Director of the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ADRHA), and Daniel Wordsworth, President and CEO of the American Refugee Committee, along with three young Somali Minnesotans who are active in relief efforts to address the crisis: Ruqia Mohamed, Shukri Abdinur and Mohamed Samatar.
Mohammed Idris, Executive Director of ADRHA said: “What we are seeing right now in the horn of Africa is devastating. Crops are failing. Families have lost their livelihoods as their livestock perished. And worst of all they have lost their loved ones. Every day, lives are needlessly lost. We are on the ground in Mogadishu and our team is working tirelessly to get people the food they need.”
Daniel Wordsworth, President and CEO of the American Refugee Committee said: “The famine in Somalia is catastrophic and demands a response. Our shared humanity compels us to intervene when we see such appalling suffering. We have a powerful asset right here in the Twin Cities and that is our Somali neighbors. They are leading this global response and we are standing right beside them. We urge all Minnesotans to join us.”
For more information about the growing famine in the Horn, read ONE’s policy briefing here.