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Deqa Aden ’18 fundraises for Somaliland drought relief

Deqa Aden is fundraising for drought alleviation efforts in Somaliland, whose flag she is pictured holding. Photo by Misha Gelnarova.
Deqa Aden is fundraising for drought alleviation efforts in Somaliland, whose flag she is pictured holding. Photo by Misha Gelnarova.
Deqa Aden is fundraising for drought alleviation efforts in Somaliland, whose flag she is pictured holding.
Photo by Misha Gelnarova.

Steve Yang, Features Editor

In the Republic of Somaliland, an autonomous region located in the northwest of Somalia, an ongoing famine caused primarily by severe drought has led to starvation and malnutrition among the country’s rural residents. In light of this situation, Deqa Aden ’18 started the Somaliland Relief Fund, a GoFundMe-based initiative dedicated to alleviating the suffering of these families by providing food and water to the afflicted. Because she hails from Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, the Fund represents Aden’s personal mission to bring awareness and assistance to her home country.

A political science and psychology double major, Aden explained that she felt compelled to start relief efforts after hearing about the severity of the drought from her mother back home, and her subsequent inability to help out while at Grinnell.

“I started the fund right after spring break. I didn’t know what was happening from back home … and my mom said they shut down the schools, because literally people were starving to death,” Aden recalled. “I felt like I was very disconnected from what was happening … and I wanted to help Somali people who were suffering from the famine. … These are my people, and no one knows about it.”

As of the time of this writing, the Somaliland Relief Fund has reached 1,150 of its 2,000 dollar goal, but Aden is optimistic that the fund will reach its target by the beginning of summer break. She explained that at a cost of 50 dollars a month for a family to have basic food necessities, the fund would cover forty rural families in dire need of assistance. Aden added that she would pay for all transport and distribution costs, as she plans for the raised funds to only go towards food and water.

“It’s not a large amount … and I like it that way because it’s easy to provide food and water directly to the people who need it the most,” she said. “I will provide my own car and fuel.”

If people are unable to donate, however, Aden explained that it was important for her to raise awareness about both the drought in Somaliland and the fact that rural families are starving at the moment, caught between droughts and the rainy season.

“I just want them to know that we are very privileged, and it’s so easy to lose track of how privileged we are. It’s easy to get disconnected from countries like Somalia. … We have three meals a day, we don’t even have to think about starvation,” Aden stated. “When people hear ‘Somalia,’ they think drugs and war.”

Aden pointed out that ignorance has two sides: 98 percent of Somali croplands are dependent on rainfall, which has been non-existent in the past few years. Locals failed to pay significant attention to the trend, Aden argued, and then food shortages became so bad that rural residents like those in Awdal, Somaliland, began dying off rapidly from malnutrition and starvation. She added that while Grinnellians may not know many Somalis and might be hesitant about donating, she hopes that there will be enough donors interested in contributing towards a cause that can help those who are often seen as anonymous or invisible to those halfway around the world.

“For me, this is just a project where if you feel the need and desire to help somebody in a community you don’t connect with, I’m saying I would be very grateful,” Aden said. “There are many people who I know who would be very grateful.”

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