ORONO, Maine — Officially the famine in the Horn of Africa is over, according to the United Nations. But the aftermath of the seven-month-long drought, especially in Somalia, a nation torn by civil strife and without a central government, is predicted to be long-lasting.
Members of the Muslim Student Association, or MSA, at the University of Maine have raised $4,000 to send to the Humanitarian African Relief Organization, which coordinates the delivery of food and water to drought-stricken camps, town and villages. Students will outline their efforts in a presentation, “Bringing Hope to Somalia: Crisis in the Horn,” at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, in 100 Neville Hall.
Many of the 30 or so members of the student group have roots in Africa and felt a need to do something to help. Although the MSA has taken on other projects, the group has not raised this much money before. Student organizers said Sunday that UMaine students and members of the Islamic Center of Maine, located near campus in Orono, have been generous in support their efforts.
Tens of thousands have died and more than two million people in Somalia and nearly 10 million throughout the Horn of Africa depend on food aid for survival, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Drought conditions could return in May, when the dry season begins.
“Somalia has many issues and the longest-lasting revolution in Africa that is still going on,” Abdu Traheem Sbayi, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said Sunday at the group’s weekly meeting. “That and the drought has affected all social classes. By providing clean water, we are providing life.”
The group chose to work with Humanitarian African Relief Organization, or HARO, in part because Said Ibrahim, a university student majoring in social work, knows some of the people involved with the group in Africa. Unlike some better-known groups, HARO is run by locals. Other groups, such as Feed the Children and the United Nations relief programs, are providing food.
“The water is transported to camps and cities and villages in large trucks,” Nabeel Hashimi of Veazie said. “It costs $20 to supply water to one family for one month. For $4,000 we can provide water to 200 families for a month.”
The drought has affected 12 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and northern Kenya, the Monitor reported earlier this month. While conditions have eased in East Africa, there are signs that drought has spread to West Africa.
“People there are just trying to get the basics,” Hina Hashimi, secretary of the MSA, said. “We don’t even think about water. We just turn on a tap.”
One of the Five Pillars of Islam is zakat. Although it is often compared to tithing for Christians, Muslims have a personal responsibility to ease the economic hardships of others. The students did not specifically mention zakat in talking about their fundraising efforts.
Leaders said Monday’s event is a way to raise the profile of the MSA on and off campus and to demonstrate that charity is a tenet of their faith.
The organization this spring will sponsor Islamic Awareness Week, a weeklong program on campus that will include special events and guest speakers.
For information about the Muslim Student Association and their efforts, visit http://umaine.edu/msa/.