MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The head of an agency providing federal aid to famine relief efforts in Somalia reassured a crowd in Minneapolis Wednesday that those who work with the U.S. to help the millions of people starving in the Horn of Africa won’t be prosecuted for supporting terrorists.

Raj Shah, the administrator of the federal aid arm USAID, was part of a public forum addressing the ongoing famine in Somalia. He made the comments in response to an audience question about the government’s anti-terror laws.

“Any partner working with the government, or USAID in particular, will be immune from that type of prosecution,” Shah said, reiterating an announcement the Obama administration made in early August.

“We’ve heard your concerns and tried very hard to be responsive,” he said.

The concerns are very real in Minnesota, which has the largest Somali population in the U.S. but has also been the center of an ongoing investigation into the recruiting and travels of more than 20 young men who authorities believe left Minneapolis to fight with al-Shabab in Somalia. A total of 20 people have been charged in Minnesota in connection with the travelers and terror financing — including two women who claim they were raising money to charity.

About 350 people attended Wednesday’s forum about the famine, including many in the local Somali community. The forum was moderated by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, and participants included House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

“This is our business because so many of our friends are from the Horn of Africa,” Ellison said. He added there is enough food to take care of everyone — but there needs to be a political will to do it.

“Neglecting Somalia will not lead to a solution,” Ellison added. “The world can no longer ignore this problem.”

During the forum, Shah announced the U.S. is pledging an additional $23 million in grants to support famine relief efforts, bringing the total commitment from the United States to $600 million.

Five regions in Somalia are suffering from famine and officials say that will increase in coming weeks. There’s also widespread hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti. The United Nations estimates that more than 12 million people need help, including about 3.7 million Somalis.

“We are facing an absolutely urgent crisis,” Shah said. Aid workers have faced challenges, in the unstable country, particularly in those areas controlled by al-Shabab, a terrorist group that has ties to al-Qaida.

He said the U.S. is working on programs to be more effective inside Somalia. To counter some of the challenges posed by al-Shabab and rebels who have attacked food convoys, Shah said USAID is working on less visible relief efforts. For example, rather than sending truckloads of grain, USAID is providing cash vouchers that people can take to markets to buy food.

He also said USAID is focusing on medical intervention, vaccines and delivering meals that are high in nutrition — with the goal of saving as many lives as possible.

Daniel Wordsworth, president of American Refugee Committee, said the famine is very real for members of the local Somali diaspora — who often receive telephone calls at 2 a.m. from family members back home who need help.

He said there is a widespread feeling that barriers are too big, but he said he talks to countless people every day who know how to get things done and know how the food helps.

“The challenge is not in the size of the problem, but the challenge is in deciding how to act,” Wordsworth said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (28)
  1. Wink says:

    We have Humanitarian crises in this country. Go to Chicago,Cleveland and Detroit. Just as many young people are dying in our inner cities.

    Maybe end the wars and tthe welfare for the companies that donate to these politicans and we can afford to give more aid to others.

    1. Winky says:

      You’ve been watching too much Pawn TV Wink. Back to game shows for you.

    2. Sara says:

      @ wink, Yes we have humanitarian crisis here but not to the extent that they are having them in the horn of Africa right now. Since the beginning of summer 25,000 children under the age 5 have died there due to malnutrition. if that many American children were dying then yes, we would focus on our selves more and there would be aid coming in from other countries that are in debt. Because that’s what people do when there are children and innocent people dying everyday. You help them even if you have problems of your own!! And honestly $23 mill is not very much compared to what we spend on everything else in this country.

  2. Kevin says:

    ON the money Wink! But Ellison has to spread his Muslim love….although Michigan holds the largest Muslim population in the country. This is a perfect case of same old shi* different day. I am sure money is pouring in from all countries to help with the last huriicane…….Govt is a joke! Kick out the illregals and give Americans jobs! Stop immigration like Europe, and give American jobs! Stop aiding other countries we are FREAKIN BROKE! Help Americans!

    1. Mom says:

      Get back on your forklift Kevin.

      1. Kevin says:

        Meaning that a forklift operator is beneath you? Wow…I am sure that forklift operators around the country would love to meet you……I guess if your going to comment something…it might as well be void of intelligence…..good job mom…..no go swipe your EBT card at Wal Mart and get some more of them yummy granny panties…..in blue this time….I did not like the red….

      2. Bill Clintons Cigar says:

        Dont Know Mom…I agree with almost everything he stated. We are in a recession, and real Americans are suffering. Why are we letting illegals take jobs from suffering Americans. And no one sent us money to recover from Irene…..but we are sending millinons of borrowed dollars to help the 349th famine in Africa. Oh and Kevin cant get back on a forklift…..as federal states show that over 60% of production jobs were sucked out this country during the recession. This counrty is broke. And we do need to help Americans. Want to see famine go to Flint or Detroit. BUT I MUST disagree with Kevin on the whole black granny painties that he opted for. I thought the red ones looked great on you…..

        1. Mommy says:

          Doesn’t matter what color boys. I fill em pretty fast these days. Yes most forklift drivers are losers. Sorry but the truth hurts son.

  3. I'm Just Sayin' says:

    We gave the democrats two years to fix all the ills that the president said he would fix, and they could not even pass a health care law that would stand up in the courts. Jobs, what jobs, openness in government got us more closed door meetings, televised debates, yeah right, and now this embarasment. Congres, take care of our own and people in our country before you try to fix all the rest fo the world. That goes for you too President Obama.

    1. hard rains says:

      So Just Sayin’…now that the Republicans hold sway in Congress, they have stated that want to cut aid to Americans. I’m surprised you seem to think we should ‘take care of our own’ really, since you usually side the opposite way.

      1. Delusional DFL'r says:

        “Republicans have stated they want to cut aid to americans”? Please show me that quote somewhere!

      2. I'm Just Sayin' says:

        Hard Rains, you seem to have me confused with someone else. My views have always been nuetral and central, not far right and not far left. You also seem to have me confused with someone that cares about your opinion. I do not care about anyone’s opinion from the far left nor far right, they are the minorities and have only their own special interest in mind, not the interest of the larger US population. Anyone else you care to confuse me or my views with?

        1. hard rains says:

          I’m a moderate for beginners. I do believe we have to aid our own, and not make cuts in programs that aid the poorest Americans, or cuts to the entitlement programs. So, you feel the same way huh? Glad to hear it.

          1. I'm Just Sayin' says:

            Yes I do hard rains, so what was your initial attack on me all about?

            1. just said says:

              Just saying what? Get back to the drive up windown now spanky.

  4. Lucifer says:

    And why pray tell do we have such a large population of Samalia’s in Minnesota? Who decided to bring them all here? Not me…

    I would much rather see Minnesota and the USA bring in educated foreigners that can contribute to our country instead of a buch of uneducated, unskilled people that are dependant on taxpayer help. Seems a good share of our government jobs are going to these unskilled uneducated immigrants too. Its no wonder that government is getting less efficient.

    And yeah, that sounds like a great idea.. Just send them money instead of food aid. Much better that some muslim terrorist can just beet the poor samalia’s over their head and take their money instead of having to hijack a food truck. This giving of money and aid to samalia people will not solve a thing and most of the money will go to corrupt aid workers and muslim terrorists. What a scam on the American taxpayers. We have our own problems to deal with here but then again this is all about democrats buying votes again.

  5. rj says:

    Smellias would never do anything for anyone. Let them figure it out.

  6. Kevin says:

    Oh you didnt get to vote on MN becoming the largest Somali population in the US? Its working out well so far. Thousands of Somalians just had a huge end of Ramadan prayer session at St Cloud Tech High School….the people there are angry….something about seperation of church and state…..and the tax payer having to pay for them all to drop in their knees and mumble……oh those silly racist St Cloud people…..Welcome to Minnesomalia…

  7. Sad says:

    Interesting. Innocent people are dying from hunger and you bash them. May God forgive you.

    1. Chicago welfare train says:

      May god forgive idiots like you.

      1. Saddest says:

        I bet you’re one of those punks who wets your pants at the first sign of trouble. Never had a physical fight in school. Ran away or hid. Sound familiar? Low IQ, works in a factory, still believe what mom told you being a winner, and on and on. Hate is the only thing keeping you from suicide. Your girl (yup shes a hog) cheats on you and yet you hate and refuse to see where the problem is. Going to be hard to turn the corner goofball. May God forgive you.

        1. Kevin says:

          Factory workers made this country great! What a POS you are! Pompas piece of garbage! Hard union workers that built this country while wussies like you sat on your mommies lap and watched hoping not to get dirty! Detriot! Pittsburgh! My fatehr work as a steel worker and he was ten times the man you will ever be! you nipple sucking piece of garbag! I dont run from fights son….I finish them! Any time you want to come to my plant and insult me and or my American workers you let me know……May God NOT for give you for being a pompas nipple suciker!!

          1. Lucifer says:

            Who cares about your dead “fatehr” kevin. Chill out and smoke another doober before you have yourself a heart attack. Being a union thug doesn’t make you special (except maybe in your own mind). Lots of non-union workers contributed equally (or more) to making America the great country that she once was and they are not taking part in the destruction of America and its jobs like the unions are today. Not to worry Kevin…. Your hero Obummer will be out of office next year and then we will see the REAL hope and change take root. Then you will come to realize that he was just using you to obtain his socialist progressive state.

            1. Billy Bob Has Guns says:

              Its spelled “dead father” nipple sucker. Why dont you stop by and chill with me. Your a POS…..anytime you want to remove your mommies panties and meet…you let me know…….say the word nipple sucker….

  8. Joe from Mn says:

    Who is in charge of distributing my tax money? I pay in to keep this state and country going, not other countries. All of you that feel that money should be sent to help people in other countries, get together and donate your own money. Don’t make all of us pay.

  9. Dave's Not Here says:

    We refuse to shell out a hundred grand for honor guards at veterans’ funerals, but we casually ship 23 million dollars in food to people who don’t need food.

    1. Communistnomore says:

      Who cares. They retire at 40 and get more benefits than black welfare mothers.

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