- The day after I got back from my reporting trip to Africa, I sat on my bed, in the stillness, in the darkness, in the sliver of the streaming sunset.
I started talking into my phone.
It was organic.
It was raw.
I smelled the smells, I heard the sounds, I saw the faces, the eyes.
I could see the rough roads, the torturous terrain, the dangerous drives.
They were branded in the frontal cortex of my brain, in the lens of my mind.
Minnesota Public Radio host Tom Weber asked me to record this extemporaneously, informal stream of thought.
It was like a verbal diary. It was a brilliant idea.
Tom said he'd keep this audio account in his files.
And he'd cue it up the day I walked into the Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media building to talk about #HellToHeartland on his show.
Today was the day. He asked me what lingers with me, what I can't forget.
Listen by clicking this link: http://www.mprnews.org/…/minnesotan-journalist-on-her-journ… …;
My time with Tom was especially meaningful. I'm an NPR junkie.
I have an IV (my phone) and it's always hooked up, turned on, amped up, and wired in to National Public Radio.
Our first Africa story about 3 year-old Anfa airs a week from today. Her mother had to leave her in the refugee camp after she was born. Anfa was going to come to the U.S. in February but her journey came to a grinding halt. I'm working on finding out how, if and when, Anfa will be able to come to the U.S.
- This Somali woman bought a rose for a Swedish soldier. She wanted to show her compassion after Sweden's terrorist attack. (Pictures courtesy: @hassanistiila)
- We don't usually get to see the faces of women in the military in Africa.
This is Faiza. She's the first Somali soldier to serve in a wheelchair. (Courtesy: Journalist @hassanistiila). I took pictures of African Union women soldiers a few weeks ago at International Women's day in Mogadishu. There is a growing bastion of women in uniform in Africa. #HellToHeartland
- Which child lives?
Which one dies?
These are the choices 20 million parents will make today in Somalia and three other African countries.
I met this mother in a makeshift refugee camp in Kismayo. She walked some of her 100 mile journey to find food and water in this makeshift camp in Kismayo before a donkey cart picked her up. Both of her children are paralyzed. She told me she feels lucky she didn't have to decide which one to leave behind.
So many parents, and humanitarian workers I talked to on my #HellToHeartland reporting trip told me the deepening drought and the oppressive famine is forcing people to leave children on the side of the road. One family told me they saw parents give urine to their children to keep them alive long enough to make it to find food and water. These are choices that seem unconscionable. But parents have no choice.
A Somali artist making her way through Africa today heard these stories in the last few days.
(Instagram post below )
More than six million people (mostly children) are at risk of dying from famine in Somalia. The United Nations said today, there's a growing risk of mass deaths from starvation among people living in conflict and drought-hit areas of the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Nigeria. An "avoidable humanitarian crisis... is fast becoming an inevitability because of a "severe" funding shortfall.
The United Nations requested $4.4 billion from the U.S. and other countries around the world. So far, 984 million were delivered.. The U.S. is planning to cut foreign aid in the months ahead.
The American Refugee Committee is the only humanitarian agency with a country office in Somalia. Workers are trying to distribute as much aid as they can right now.
But every hour that goes by today, more parents will have to decide which child lives, which one dies.
- Deep Hunger.
Widespread outbreaks of measles, cholera and malaria.
No clean water.
No protective shelter.
Failed response to famine.
Minimal accesss to health care.
Vulnerability to terrorists.
It's a perfect storm of of a pandemonium of the most immense amounts of pain humans can endure.
This is the reality for the thousands of people who live in a refugee camp in Kismayo, Somalia.
I was recording this (first video) when a soldier guarding us told me a little blind boy heard my voice and wanted to talk to me. But when we turned around, he was gone. That soldier helped me look for him.
We found him. His name is Abdi. His grandmother told me he didn't get treatment for measles. The disease deformed his eyes and blinded him.
The medical professionals at American Refugee Committee's makeshift medical clinic under a tree in the camp say they're seeing unprecedented measles, malaria and cholera outbreaks. Children are affected most because 70% of the people in the camps are children like Abdi. The clinic operates on a grant. That grant runs out in July. This is the only care in the camp. #HellToHeartland
- Children and pregnant women in some areas of Somalia will get a lifesaving help in a few hours. Turkish Airlines landed in Mogadishu a few hours ago with 60 tons of supplementary food. The American Refugee Committee (ARC) is sorting and transporting the food and ARC will start distributing it tomorrow in Sool, Middle Shabelle, Banadir and Lower Jubba. The famine and drought hit these areas the hardest. Our trip #HellToHeartland took us to Jubiland in Somalia a few weeks ago. The state's lawmakers told us they would see more people, mostly children die of hunger if they couldn't get aid. This cargo will help save some lives. A few people compelled to do something to help the famine raised money in a few days on social media.
Hell to Heartland
You can follow Farrah's journey from Minneapolis to Mogadishu through her Facebook and Twitter posts. We'll share her travels to Nairobi, Dadaab, Kismayo and Mogadishu. You'll get a first-hand look at what she's seeing as well as the obstacles and challenges she may encounter in telling the story.