East Africa famine devastating, Oda says

Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda heard stories of starving Somali women forced to leave their weakest child behind so they could walk the rest of their children to a refugee camp in Kenya.
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda talks about her tour of the famine-stricken region of East Africa 8:47

Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda says she was struck by the devastation wreaked by famine during her visit to East Africa last weekend, where she saw the damaged feet of people who had walked from Somalia to a refugee camp in Kenya and how quiet the children were after their journey.

She heard the stories of mothers forced to leave a child behind so they could take the rest of the children across the desert to find food.

"The people who make it to the refugee camps, these are the strong ones. We suspect there are millions that have died within Somalia," Oda told Rosemary Barton in a compelling interview on CBC's Power & Politics.

"We're not able to get in there to double-check, but there are many who have not been able to leave their villages. There are also so many we are hearing about who are dying on the way to the refugee camp. We have mothers who are having to leave the weakest child behind, even though they still may be alive, but knowing that for the sake of her other children she's got to continue her journey, and so she has to make that difficult choice."

Oda met with Somali refugees at their camp in Kenya, and with officials from the United Nations.

Canada has committed $72 million to the region this year. The federal government has also promised to match Canadian contributions to recognized charities working in East Africa. The matching is for donations between July 6 and Sept. 16.

"It just brought the impact of a true, serious humanitarian crisis," Oda said.