A Sylvan Lake native believes she made the right decision to return to Somalia last week after being held captive there for 15 months under horrendous conditions only a few years earlier.
Amanda Lindhout led a coalition of Canadian non-governmental organizations, including her own Global Enrichment Foundation, into famine-stricken southern Somalia, where she and others were able to provide food to 14,000 people. Somalians are experiencing the worst drought to hit East Africa in 60 years.
She is in Africa for the first time since November 2009, when she and Australian Nigel Brennan were released by their Somali captors after a ransom was paid by friends, family and others. The former freelance journalist and Brennan, a photographer, were abducted at gunpoint near Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in August 2008.
Three Somalian natives who were travelling with the pair were released 146 days after being abducted. Lindhout and Brennan were held for 15 months.
Lindhout, 30, said she was nervous about venturing inside the border of the country that is rocked by lawlessness and instability, but she knew she would be safe with a contingent that included 60 security personnel.
The town of Dhoobley where they took the food is one of the most secure areas in south Central Somalia because it’s controlled by 2,000 troops of the transitional federal government, she added.
Lindhout said she felt it was important to bring food into this area and to lead by example.
“In the town where we brought food, every single morning they are collecting the bodies of people, mostly children who had died through the night from hunger,” said Lindhout in an interview from Kenya this week. “Food has to get into these areas.”
The group’s convoy was the first food major ground delivery of food aid into Somalia since the United Nations officially declared a famine in parts of the country.
“Because we’re a smaller organization, we’re not bound by the same politics and red tape,” said Lindhout, executive director of the foundation that aims to empower Somalian women through education.
Each family received enough food for two weeks — five kg each of rice, flour, vitamin-enriched porridge, as well as three kg each of sugar and oil.
A second convoy is planned for late August. It’s hoped that 28,000 people will be fed.
Central Albertans can join in sponsoring this convoy and tax donations are available. So far, $60,000 has been raised. Each truck of food costs $28,000. Information can be found online at www.globalenrichmentfoundation.com.
While this may be considered a short-term solution for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Lindhout said the food aid is so important for thousands.
“There are people who are on their way to the refugee camps in Kenya but a lot of them don’t make it there,” she said.
“We’re giving them enough food so they can make it to the refugee camps where they get registered and receive international food aid.”