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Let's Not forget Somalia in the Wake of the Tsunami

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U.S. Reps. Gregory W. Meeks and Donald M. Payne Joint Statement: Let's Not Forget Somalia in Wake of the Tsunami



Contact: Mischa Thompson, 202-225-3461, or Candace Sandy, 917-714-3275 or 718-949-5600, both of the Office of Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, or Noelle Lusane of the Office of Congressman Donald M. Payne, 202-225-3436



WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks and Donald Payne, members of the House International Relations Committee and its sub-committee on Africa, released the following joint statement today:



"As we come together to express our deepest sympathy and condolences to those affected by the Tsunami, we ask that the world simply not forget that in addition to the hundreds of thousands affected in Asia, the African countries of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Seychelles were also affected with the most devastation being experienced by Somalia. Yet, the devastation experienced by Somalia remains severely under reported in the media and we fear this may be symptomatic of a larger trend that may prevent Somalians from receiving the assistance they direly need.



"Over the last decade, civil war, drought and food insecurity have devastated Somalis, leaving both a political and economic vacuum that has made it extremely difficult to assess the total damage of the Tsunami. Even so, initial reports cite approximately 200 deaths and another 54,000 affected. Homes and fishing boats have been destroyed, access to clean water cut off, and equipment that sustains the local economy has been seriously damaged.



"Sadly, the devastation of the Tsunami is taking place as Somalia has reached a pivotal point in its history. Over the past few years, Somalis committed to their country have gathered in Kenya to form a new government. Just a few months ago, a new government was selected and plans are being made for its relocation to Somalia. However, the present tragedy of the tsunami coupled with the existing humanitarian situation may make the move and ultimate success of this government more difficult.



"The U.S. government has committed $50,000 through USAID in response to the Tsunami, while UN reports cite a need of $13 million. There is a real need for President Bush (news - web sites) to work with the international community to ensure that a thorough assessment of the damage in Somalia takes place and that our contribution is enough.



"Support for the people of Somalia and especially its new government is critical to our own security needs at a time in which failed states have been know to give birth to and harbor terrorists. Assisting the Somalian victims of the Tsunami only helps in establishing a more stable environment for a new government that will be more closely aligned with our needs. In our efforts to assist the victims of the Tsunami, we must be certain not to forget Somalia.



"Lastly, while the response to relief efforts the world over have been unparalleled in the wake of the Tsunami tragedy in South Asia and East Africa and this type of response is welcomed and enthusiastically encouraged, Americans and members of the international community should not forget ongoing crises in Africa, particularly Darfur, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (news - web sites), and Northern Uganda.



"Media coverage of Darfur has dropped off in recent months since the Congressional and subsequent Administration declarations of genocide, yet millions of people remain affected by violence and disease. More than 1 million people have been driven from their homes and an additional 200,000 have fled into Chad. Women and girls remain vulnerable to rape, children and families continue to go hungry, and more than 1,000 people die each day. In Congo, remnants of a five year war that killed over 3 million, has in the past weeks lead to renewed fighting and the displacement of over 10,000, while in Northern Uganda, a civil war has displaced over 1.6 million people and been responsible for the abduction of over 20,000 children used as child soldiers.


"While the humanitarian crises in these countries have received less media coverage and their causes are social as opposed to natural, they have had just as devastating an impact. Let us remember and help rebuild the lives of all affected by the Tsunamis, whether they be in Asia or Africa, while at the same time keeping in mind that less visible crises need our support as well."

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