Actress Kristin Davis, best known for her role as Charlotte on HBO’s Sex and the City, broke down in tears on live TV while describing her visit to a refugee camp in Kenya. The camp is housing hundreds of thousands of refugees from drought-stricken Somalia, which is fast becoming one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Refugees are pouring over the borders to Kenya and Ethiopia, but many more are trapped in Somalia by violent conflicts, which are also keeping aid organizations from sending help. And the camps are filling up as fast as they are opened. Kenya is also reluctant to open more camps, lest the refugees stay in the country.
In her work as an Oxfam ambassador, Davis visited a Kenyan refugee camp, where she saw the devastation first-hand.
“We were really unprepared for how shocking it is,” she told the BBC. As she began to cry, she added, ”I’m sorry, this story is a hard story. This woman can’t walk so she came from Somalia on a cart with a donkey. She started with five children and now she just has three. Her husband was killed along the way and [she lost] everything she owned.”
Reading the stories about conditions in Somalia, it’s easy to understand why she wouldn’t be able to talk about her trip without breaking down. In another BBC news article, Anne Mawathe tells just a few of the refugees’ stories. One woman left her child on the road because he was too weak to finish the journey to Kenya. ”His eyes still haunt me to this day,” she said.
Another woman gave birth about 80 km (50 miles) away from the Kenyan border town that she and her family were trying to reach. ”Since I delivered, I haven’t eaten a thing,” she told the BBC.
The militant group in control of Somalia, al-Shabab, previously refused to allow aid groups into the country because they were deemed anti-Muslim. But now they are welcoming any assistance they can get. The problem is that the United States is not stepping up as a leader in the struggle to save the hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees.
In an interview with NPR, Jeremy Konyndyk, the co-director of policy and advocacy for the global aid agency Mercy Corps, said, “[if] U.S. assistance is not there, [the new aid presence] will make a difference, but not enough of a difference. The U.S. is the largest donor of global food aid. And when the U.S. doesn’t contribute robustly to a response, there aren’t too many other donors in the world who can pick up that slack.”
One of the issues, for the United States, is that they don’t want to finance militant organizations like al-Shabab. But the State Department could also request a humanitarian exemption from the Treasury Department, instead of allowing Somalia to suffer on its own. Why aren’t we stepping up to avert this ongoing tragedy? Sign the Care2 petition, telling President Obama’s administration to send more aid to Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Photo from expertinfantry via flickr.