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With K’naan in Somalia: Photos from the Edge

Poet, rapper and songwriter K’naan has returned to Somalia for the first time since he fled his native land with his family in 1991. Traveling with Sol Guy, his business partner and manager (and National Geographic Emerging Explorer), his mission is to help raise awareness (and relief funding) for millions of starving people. “A life...

Poet, rapper and songwriter K’naan has returned to Somalia for the first time since he fled his native land with his family in 1991. Traveling with Sol Guy, his business partner and manager (and National Geographic Emerging Explorer), his mission is to help raise awareness (and relief funding) for millions of starving people. “A life no less valuable than yours and mine. And without any dramatization, without sounding a single bell, we are now at risk of losing 12 million of those ones. In that thought alone, it is remarkable that the world does not come to a halt,” K’naan and Sol said in a statement before their departure for Africa.

Here is their report of what they have found in Somalia. Please follow the link at the bottom to find out how you can help the hunger relief effort.

By Sol Guy

Mogadishu, Somalia — Earlier this month the United Nations announced that the first famine in 20 years was unfolding in Somalia and throughout the Horn of Africa.  I have a unique connection to the region as one of my best friends and business partners is the Somali-born poet and singer K’naan. It turns out the last time a famine was announced it was in the same region.

How is it possible that in 2011 we find ourselves repeating the mistakes of the past? How can we not rally globally and come up with innovative solutions? We can’t completely plan for  a tsunami or an earthquake, but we can surely be proactive as opposed to reactive when it comes to a drought and famine that the people in this region have been warning us about for the past three years.

I don’t want to simplify the solution as Somalia is a complex country, that has had no central government for 20 years. With a civil war raging, the international community found itself unable to engage with the oncoming humanitarian disaster. However, as the situation began to unfold I went through every emotion, from anger and hope to wondering why the world didn’t seem to care. What I realized is that in a world where we see disasters daily and our attention span is minimal, we seem to have become dysfunctional in our ability to help those in need.

So what do we do? We knew we had to do something and realized the best thing we could do was to go to Somalia ourselves, to see what was happening and build our plan from there. We took a trip to humanity’s edge, where opportunity and tragedy walk a razor’s edge.

This would be my brother K’naan’s first trip back to the city of his birth since he fled with his family in 1991 as the country crumbled. Here’s some photos from our trip into Mogadishu. Click on each photo to enlarge them. All photos by Nabil Elderkin.


To go to Mogadishu you need a plan. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Ten years since we dreamed of this day, not under these conditions....but we're here nonetheless. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The longest shoreline in Africa. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Almost home. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


When the world refuses to take notice. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The vibrant colors of an IDP Camp (Internally Displaced Person) in Mogadishu. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The Strength -- Shelled but still standing. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The boys in the hood. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.
Bird's-eye view of the nation of poets and warriors. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The Eyes -- Impossible to look away. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.
A young Somali doctor doing everything he can to help under the most extreme circumstances, explains the needs to K'naan and I at Banadir Hospital, where K'naan was born. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


What is there to say? Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.

Provide Famine Relief in Somalia

Make a donation right now to provide famine relief in Somalia. Neighbors Initiative is a program to strengthen the fabric of local communities by uniting and mobilizing to provide desperately needed humanitarian relief in Somalia. It’s a partnership between the American Refugee Committee and the Somali community. We’ll put your donation to work immediately, bringing life-saving support to families in Somalia. Food, clean water, sanitation, shelter — people really need our help, Neighbors Initiative says on its website. Find out more.



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Meet the Author

Author Photo David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn