Local nonprofits are trying to raise $20,000 to deliver aid to East Africa, which is suffering its worst drought in 60 years.

“It’s a very bad situation,” Dr. Abdifatah Ahmed, the executive director of Portland-based Atlantic Global Aid, said Tuesday at a news conference. “We can’t wait for the United Nations or the other big fishes to act. People are dying. We have to act now.”

In a recent 90-day period, about 29,000 Somali and Kenyan children 5 years old or younger died of starvation. Nine million Somalis and Kenyans will likely die in coming weeks for lack of food.

Atlantic Global Health is partnering with Scarborough-based Partners for World Health. Dr. Abdi, as everyone calls him, said the two groups already have about $100,000 worth of supplies ready to go, if they can raise enough money.

Atlantic Global Health, which has an office in Kenya, is the first Maine nonprofit to have an office in East Africa. In May, four representatives from the organization traveled to Kenya to distribute medical supplies.

Partners For World Health, which collects medical items that local hospitals would otherwise throw away, has also traveled the globe to provide relief. A group of nurses affiliated with the group recently delivered medical supplies and training to hospitals in war-stricken Libya, and is planning a return trip there later this year.

The campaign was announced Wednesday in Lewiston, which has more than 4,000 Somali or Bantu immigrants, nearly one-tenth of the city’s population. Portland also has a sizeable contingent of residents with East African roots.

“A lot of Somali-Americans in Maine have families ‘back home’ so what is happening is very crucial to us,” Ahmed said. “This is the only way we can save lives.”

On Sept. 17, the groups will host a fundraising dinner at the Lewiston Multi-Purpose Center. Lewiston Mayor Laurent Gilbert, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Ahmed will all speak, and tickets will come with donations of at least $20.

 

Staff Writer Jason Singer can be reached at 791-6437 or at: [email protected]