They converged on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds Saturday to fight a famine that's threatening millions of people half a world away.
About 200 Somali-Americans and their supporters marched more than 6 miles from Minneapolis to the Capitol to raise awareness about the famine wracking their war-devastated homeland, as well as money to counter it.
Separately, East Africans living in Minnesota also rallied at the Capitol to urge the State Department to lift restrictions on aid agencies trying to funnel help to that part of the continent.
The three-hour march was part of an international movement started by Somali-Canadian students in Calgary, Alberta, and organized by Hope to End Hunger, a group of Somali-American students and others pushing for famine relief.
In a YouTube video posted by the organization, participants declared that they're marching "for the mothers ... for the parents who have lost their kids ... for the 500,000 people who are on the brink of death."
The Horn of Africa has been suffering from drought and famine that the United Nations estimates threatens the lives of more than 11 million people. Those twin disasters have been compounded by violence waged by the militant group Al-Shabab. And while the theft of food aid has been widespread, the U.N. has said suspending aid would result in an even higher death toll.
In Minneapolis, home to the nation's largest population of Somali immigrants, the Hope to End Hunger has joined forces with the locally based American Refugee Committee, which is accepting donations to help famine victims. The committee can be reached at www.ARCrelief.org.
"The Somali youth have organized this, but it's really cool that they're literally putting themselves in the shoes of the refugees who have been walking for days," committee spokeswoman Erin Anderson said.
So far, the committee has gotten about $500,000 in donations for famine relief and an additional $280,000 in pledges, Anderson said. "The response, especially in the Somali community, has been incredible," she said.
After reaching the Capitol, the marchers broke their daylong fast required of Muslims during the month of Ramadan.
The earlier rally was organized by East Africa Relief, which is trying to focus attention on Horn of Africa nations beyond Somalia, specifically in Ethiopia. The group also is soliciting funds through a variety of aid agencies.
More information is available at www.eastafricarelief.com.
Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184