I sit in a cabin in the woods of Maine in Deer Isle as I work on this column. Looking through the window I am greeted by spruce trees,

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

moss and granite ledge. After some rain fell in Maine over the past week it looks like the trees are as happy as they could ever be. It is very calm and good for the heart.

One thing everyone enjoys doing during such a nice weekend is connecting with family members and chatting. I connected over the weekend with my mother, who is in Mogadishu; she and my nieces brought home a few gallons of water from a local well. The word “drought” connected us this weekend. It is in the news here in Maine and it is also in the international news about the Horn of Africa.

Drought has a different meaning for me and my mother; we associate the word with death and displacement. She asked if Maine animals are dying, or if people are queuing up for water at pump wells, or fleeing their houses.

I have lived in both worlds and I know where my mother is coming from. She has lived through five severe droughts in Mogadishu. I was there for three of them. Some images will never escape my mind, including skeletons of kids of my age who died from malnutrition and thirst. Seeing them was like seeing roadkill on Maine highways. We just went on with our lives.

I personally am not pained over the Maine drought, but I do feel the pain of the Somali drought as my mother talks about the groundwater level dropping sharply across the country. People like her are working all day to try to pump any amount of water to the surface; she gets help from my nieces and nephews.


I feel embarrassed talking about my quiet and peaceful weekend in Maine. The drought in the Horn of Africa has become a ticking bomb as human lives – including 1.5 million children – are at risk, according to the United Nations, which classified their situation as acutely malnourished.

The Horn of Africa community in the state of Maine seems absent in the ongoing conversation on what to do with the ever-growing, worsening droughts and famine in the African region. What are we doing to help? Anything helps at this time, even starting within our community. As a community, we have the power to intervene and make a change, the same way we have the power to change the lives of our families back home through remittance. The drought, unlike the conflict, will affect everyone and many countries: In just one week this month, 1 million people were displaced by the drought in Somalia.

Besides having this conversation at the dinner table we can also support and become involved with regional efforts. The recent Kampala declaration on migration, environment and climate change, which brought together 19 African governments, is a place we can start. We can help raise the issue of climate impact in the region to our communities in Maine and beyond.

We can also bring conversations about climate change and migration to global discussions. We must be involved in conferences on climate change happening everywhere since our continent is the one suffering the most. A good way to start is to find our voice at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change conference taking place in Egypt from Nov. 7-18.

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