South African NGO Gift of the Givers Foundation carried the food to Somalia and speaking when the first of the three planes left Kamuzu International Airport in the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, for Mogadishu, the charity’s founder and chairman Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman said it was high time Africa stopped looking up to the West to solve its crisis.
“Africa needs to believe in itself, our people and our government need to believe that we can do things for our continent,” he said. “We should stop taking the begging bowl to ask for help.”
Sooliman said there are almost a billion people in Africa “and if all of us put a little amount of money we can do it ourselves”.
Sooliman’s statement comes amid growing calls for African leaders to take charge of the growing crisis. African Union deputy chairman Erasmus Mwecha said the continental body will hold an emergency summit to discuss the escalating crisis. This was after the president of Somalia and others, including the media, had criticised African leaders for staying aloof of the crisis.
Sooliman agreed with such accusations.
“African governments should lead the way,” he said. “They should be the first on the scene; they should say ‘we’re here, these are our people, this is what we are doing.'”
Asked how Gift of the Givers would manoeuvre in the war-torn Somalia, especially considering that the crisis has hit hard in lawless areas controlled by the al-Shabab, Sooliman said his NGO was working closely with the militia group.
“Al-Shabab has already contacted my ground staff saying that they are impressed with what we are doing and they know that we are coming to the areas they control,” he said. “They want to give us a document to enter the areas they control. So I am confident by the time we get there all areas will be opened to us.”
Gift of the Givers has already flown to Somalia 15 metric tonnes of highly nutritious Sibusiso ready food made by a Malawian company, Rab Processors. The consignment also comprises Likuni Phala, another highly nutritious mix for porridge for children by the same company.
Shadreck Jonasi, Malawi’s deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, said these two products have been internationally accepted to be nutritious.
“It’s time for Malawians to be proud of ourselves,” he said. “We must believe in ourselves, we must believe that we can make something which the international community can accept.”
According to the United Nations, over 12 million people in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, are facing a worsening food crisis with Somalia – where one in four children are malnourished – being the hardest hit.