'Paying it forward': Volunteers pack emergency kits for drought-stricken East Africa
Ahmed Hussen, Canada's minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, was on hand at the charity event
Local volunteers and members of the Canadian Somali community packed family emergency kits Saturday to help the nearly 20 million people in east African countries affected by severe drought conditions.
Among those at the relief-packing event was Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen, who himself came to Canada as a refugee from Somalia in his teens.
"What you see here is Canadian generosity and the ability of citizens to step up," Hussen said. "Canadians have always stepped up when other people around the world have run into difficulties — especially when it comes to famine and malnutrition affecting women and children and men."
The Canadian government has pledged to match all funds raised for famine relief in East Africa until the end of the month.
- Toronto MP Ahmed Hussen 1st Somali-Canadian appointed to federal cabinet
'Paying it forward'
Osob Mohamud was one of many who volunteered at the event. Originally from Somalia, Mohamud has lived in Canada for 25 years and has taken this opportunity to give back.
"I feel like this is a call to action for paying it forward, being in this country with a lot of privilege... I'm doing my part to help those who are really in need back home," she said.
Millions of lives at risk
Drought conditions have devastated crops and livestock in Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia for three years leaving millions at risk of severe malnutrition, including about 600,000 children under the age of five.
- Canada to give $119M in aid to Middle East and African countries suffering food crises
- Drought kills 110 in one region of Somalia in 48 hours
A lack of safe drinking water, which has caused a rise of water-borne illnesses, has also added to the problems in the east African countries.
The kits put together at Saturday's event have specifically been made to help those affected by the crisis and include food, hygiene items, iron supplements and a water purification unit.
Saturday's charity event leads up to June 20th's World Refugee Day where Toronto will host the We Want Peace concert in celebration of the world's refugees.