As Crisis in Their Country Worsens,

Somalis in Minnesota Raise Awareness, Funds

On July 20, the United Nations officially declared a famine in parts of Somalia, a classification defined by mortality rates of two deaths per 10,000 people every day, acute malnutrition in over 30 percent of people, along with skyrocketing rates of deadly malnutrition (above 30% for children under five) and at least 20 percent of households facing extreme food shortages.

   In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a cooking contest was held on July 9 to raise funds and awareness of the five million Somalis battling hunger due to their country’s worst drought in 60 years, a long-running civil war and lack of an effective central government. At least one child in four in Somalia suffers from extreme malnutrition.

   The festive community event – free and open to the public – was the brainchild of Neighbors for Nations and the local Somali-American community, which, at an estimated 100,000, is the largest Somali population in the U.S.

   The Neighbors for Nations program was launched April 13 at Minneapolis City Hall to raise awareness of the dire situation in Somalia and funds for aid projects in the impoverished African country. A joint initiative of the Internally Displaced Somali Advisory Council and the American Refugee Committee (ARC), both based in Minneapolis, Neighbors for Nations was featured at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Global Diaspora Forum in May.  

   “We are all Somalis tonight,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told the crowd gathered at the Lab Theatre for the first-ever Sambusa Cook-Off.  Sambusa, a fried, stuffed, triangle-shaped pastry is a wildly popular mainstay of Somali restaurants in the Twin Cities.  Traditionally, the snacks are filled with meat, but, as a change of pace for the competition, the ingredients were vegetarian.

   The contest featured local chefs Nafisa Farah, co-owner of SomAmerica Catering & Food; Sade Hashi, co-owner with his brother, Jamal, of Safari Restaurant; Abdirahman Kahin, manager of Afro Deli & Coffee; Aidarus Munye, owner of International Food Manufacturing; and Fartun Nur, the only non-professional cook who was urged by friends and family to become involved in the competition. Mayor Rybak, radio show host Lynne Rossetto Kasper, and singers Hibo Nuura and Adar Kahin, served as “celebrity” judges, while the guests themselves cast their votes as the fifth judge. Accepting the Best Sambusa Award on behalf of Safari Restaurant, Jamal Hashi asserted, “The creativity behind any good food is love and passion.”

   Tens of thousands of Somalis fled to the U.S. at the time of their country’s civil war in 1991. The refugees were attracted to Minneapolis because of the city’s employment and educational opportunities, as well as affordable housing, Said Sheik-Abdi, program manager of Neighbors for Nations, told this reporter.

   “The local Somali community has been leading the way with fundraising,” ARC President Daniel Wordsworth explained, “but we are helping make the projects possible.” An ARC-sponsored relief team flew to Somalia on July 12 to deliver badly needed aid. And while the short-term goal is to provide food, water and shelter to the population suffering from a severe drought, famine, violence and unrest, the long-term goal is education to create positive change and build hope, Wordsworth added. The ARC team in Somalia works closely with the Drought Relief Commission and the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA) to provide life-saving relief.

For more information or to donate to help the people of Somalia, visit the Web site:

Somalia Crisis