Somalia-born rapper K’naan brought his waving flag back home, promising to help his countrymen as they struggle with a devastating famine that has killed tens of thousands of children.
The rapper, who left Somalia as a child more than two decades ago to settle in Canada, made a brief visit to Mogadishu on Sunday. He was mobbed by famine refugees who tried to shake his hand or hug him as he toured Mogadishu’s Banadir Hospital and met with malnourished children.
“I came to Somalia to see the situation here and give any donation I have to the people and anything else available,” he said, speaking in Somali. “I will do all I can to help my people in Somalia.”
He did not perform his hit song Wavin’ Flag, which tells of the difficulties he faced growing up in the lawless, impoverished Horn of Africa nation. A version of that song was used for a Coca-Cola campaign when South Africa hosted last year’s World Cup.
The UN says more than 3.2 million Somalis need food aid. The US says 29,000 Somali children under age five have died.
The UN says tens of thousands of people have already died in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti and has warned that the famine has not peaked. More than 12 million people in the region need food aid, but according to the UN, Somalia has been hit the hardest because of a confluence of conflict and climate change.
Decades of violence in Somalia have left the population vulnerable to the vagaries of weather changes. Islamist insurgents are also attempting to overthrow Somalia’s weak UN-backed government. The most dangerous among the groups is the al-Shabab militant group, which has barred aid agencies from operating in the territories it controls in southern Somalia.
The southern parts of Somalia, which are mainly under the control of al-Shabab extremists, have been worst affected because of the group’s refusal to allow in key humanitarian groups including the World Food Program, the world’s major aid provider.