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Somalia is more than its hardships; more than its struggles and staggered development. In 2012, the state moved toward stability when a new internationally-backed government was put in place. The real GDP has only grown since then, with businesses and exports increasing year over year. Access to improved water sources continues to slowly, but steadily increase, while stunting among children continues to slowly, but steadily decrease. There have been breakthroughs in tech innovations, strides in the arts, and an emergence of creative entrepreneurs. Undaunted and relentless, the people of Somalia are rising.

And yet, hardship persists. It demands attention, time, and resources. Even in the short-lived times of peace within their nation, hardship remains, hauntingly, on the horizon for most Somalis. Despite their personal triumphs, their professional ingenuity, their cultural richness, hardship is ingrained in their story. This season is no different.

Photo Credit: Frank Spangler/ADRA Canada

Despite the progress, there are natural setbacks. According to the United Nations, famine can only be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are reached: when one in five households in a certain area face extreme food shortages; more than 30 percent of the population is acutely malnourished; and at least two people for every 10,000 die each day. The term is reserved only for such rare and dire situations in order to draw global attention and to elicit action.

The last time a nation on our planet met these criteria was six years ago. The announcement was made after an estimated 260,000 people had died in a sixty-day period. It was in Somalia.

In the last few months, Somalia has hovered closer and closer to these thresholds once again. Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen has joined them.

The escalation to crisis began when the warm, erratic winds of El Niño exacerbated the existing drought in the Somali countryside. 65% of the Somali population depends on livestock for milk, meat and a primary means of income; yet between 55 and 90% of livestock has perished since then as a result of water shortages and depletion of pasture. Declining trade, lower wages and rising food costs as a result of these losses have made basic commodities for survival unaffordable to the average household. Over a quarter of a million Somalis have abandoned their homes since November in search of food and water, reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Due to the depletion of water sources, water prices are on the rise — far beyond the reach of many households. These exorbitant prices are leading many to resort to unsafe water sources, which has, in turn, spurred outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases. According to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, an estimated 6.2 million people — nearly half the population — are at risk of acute food insecurity including malnutrition and starvation. Without intervention, that number only stands to grow.

In response to the devastation, Rise Against Hunger and our partner ADRA International are committed to working together to reduce hunger, improve nutrition and increase food security among the drought-displaced pastoral populations of Baidoa, Somalia. The most vulnerable households in this village — those who have lost their breadwinners, those who are dependent on dying livestock or decaying pastures — will be targeted by our joint emergency outreach.

Photo Credit: Frank Spangler/ADRA Canada

While Rise Against Hunger relief efforts have typically involved the shipment of meals, water filters or other aid to the affected populations, this response will take a new approach to accommodate for difficult to navigate terrain, ongoing violence and stricter customs processes in the country. Instead, ADRA International with the support from Rise Against Hunger will be adopting a food voucher system.

Food vouchers are a reliable, timely, and secure way to provide assistance to vulnerable individuals. They help preserve the dignity of the beneficiary while ensuring much-needed aid is received directly by the households who need it most. The vouchers are redeemed at select stores for approved goods and those stores will turn in their collected vouchers for money from the sponsoring organizations. This injection of cash into the local economy help stimulate local markets, production and wages. Plus, through this voucher system, Rise Against Hunger can reduce its operational overhead, eliminate delivery costs and delays, and ensure that the maximum amount is reaching families in urgent need.

Through this initiative, 650 families, mostly in internally displaced refugee camps, will receive both mixed restricted voucher valued and unrestricted vouchers on a monthly basis. The mixed restricted vouchers will be used to redeem diet staples including rice, beans, sorghum, wheat flour, oil and salt. The unrestricted vouchers will be used by the head of households to purchase other essential food supplies that can vary depending on their own family’s needs. We will work with ADRA to ensure the nutritional and food security needs of the disaster-affected population, including those most at risk, are met immediately through this innovative aid delivery scheme.

Photo Credit: Frank Spangler/ADRA Canada

With the majority of households in this region subsisting on a single meal a day or less, these vouchers will allow the most hurting populations — including children, elderly and disabled — to regain their health, strength and, eventually, their livelihoods.

The story of Somalia wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the hurdles and the hardship it’s people have endured. But, especially with your help, it doesn’t have to be the defining characteristic. Because while hardship has always been a constant thread in the history of the nation, more marked has been the resulting hope, resilience and fortitude. Donate now to help write a new story.

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