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Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2:02 p.m.

Student group raises $4,000 so far in February fundraiser to alleviate suffering in Somalia

The University of Maine’s Muslim Student Association has raised over $4,000 so far in a month-long effort to raise awareness of and help alleviate suffering caused by the past year’s famine in Somalia.

The United Nations declares famine when 20 percent of a population has fewer than 2100 kilocalories of food available per day, when 30 percent of children are malnourished and when there are two deaths per day in every 10,000 people caused by lack of food.

The United Nations declared famine in Somalia in July 2011. The U.N. has not declared famine since 1991, also in Somalia. At the beginning of the month, the U.N. said the famine had ended but described a situation that remained dire.

The MSA will present Project Somalia at a fundraising event to be held at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in Room 100 of Neville Hall. News of the event has already reached some at UMaine, according to Nabeel Hashmi, MSA president and second-year biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology student.

Project Somalia began as a collaborative effort between the MSA and two youth groups. They set the goal to raise $1,000 per group, “a pretty high goal,” Nabeel Hashmi said. To achieve this goal, the MSA hosted a fundraising potluck dinner at the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono last Friday.

“One of the major hospitals became more like a morgue,” said Hinai Hashmi, MSA secretary and a first-year microbiology and pre-med student. “Mothers would come in with their children already dead.”

“It’s not like what you see on the news,” said Mahad Osman, UMaine student and Somalian native. “Imagine someone walking 50 miles to get water.”

After a 30-minute presentation on the problems facing Somalia, the MSA had raised four times the $1,000 it had hoped for.

“No matter how little they gave, they did their part,” Nabeel Hashmi said. With that money, the group will be able to provide water to 200 families for one month.

“Water is symbolic of life. It provides hope,” said MSA Vice President Abdulraheem Sbayi.

There are two rivers in Somalia that provide all of the water for the country. Both rivers are located in the southern portion of the country. There is a high cost to get water to the people of Somalia. The driver must be compensated, and fuel must be purchased for the truck, the group said.

“Most of this aid is going to the children,” Nabeel Hashmi said.

The MSA is working with the Humanitarian African Relief Organization to help the people of Somalia. HARO is a “100 percent” nonprofit organization, so the group expects 100 percent of the money they raise will go toward getting water to families in comparison to money funneled through other organizations that must cover administrative costs.

Said Ibrahim, a third-year social work student and imam of the ICMO, knows the president of HARO personally. Their relationship has allowed the MSA to talk directly to the person in charge rather than using a middleman to relay messages back and forth.

HARO partners with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth to help provide basic necessities, such as food and water, to Somalians living in refugee camps.

“They divide and conquer,” Sbayi said.

Initially the group considered working with another larger aid organization. They decided working with HARO would be more effective for their goals because their assistance would be fast and localized.

Though the famine has been declared over, the MSA believes recovery is a longer and more difficult process.

“We want to show support even if it’s no longer in the news,” said Hashim Abdi, a fourth-year zoology student.