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American Friends Service Committee sends needs assessment team to the Horn of Africa

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Dereje Wordofa, Regional Director for Africa,

Pretoria, South Africa [May 31] -The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace and social justice organization, continues to build on its 90-year history of humanitarian work by sending a needs assessment team to the Horn of Africa to evaluate the growing humanitarian crisis that affects Somalia and surrounding countries. The delegation will visit the border countries of Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Eritrea - areas critically touched by the refugee crisis.

The UN has reports about one million people have been displaced in Somalia because of violence, hunger and floods. In the first quarter of 2007, an estimated 400,000 people have been displaced by armed conflict in the capital city, Mogadishu.

"The root causes of the crisis are very complex," says Dereje Wordofa, AFSC regional director for Africa. "The deep-rooted splits among various 'clans' combined with external political interventions have exacerbated the conflict situation in the entire region. These rifts will remain the major obstacle for creating a peaceful and united Horn of Africa."

Cycles of war and humanitarian crises have plagued Somalia for over 30 years. Somalia was one of the countries affected by the 2004 tsunami that struck following an earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Entire villages were destroyed, killing an estimated 300 people.

"We are witnessing another wave of deaths and displacement of civilians including women and children," he adds.

Geri Sicola, AFSC associate general secretary for International Programs said, "Our team will examine the various factors fueling the conflict at the local and regional level. The mission is also expected to identify areas of short- or medium- term work and lay the foundation for a long-term strategy."

AFSC SOMALIA ASSESSMENT

AFSC's work in the horn of Africa began in 1982 with a relief program servicing refugees in war-torn Somalia. For nineteen years a variety of programs followed that included relief assistance, support to orphans and rural community development.

The mission will wrap up at the end of May. A preliminary report is expected to be released in later this year.

Backed by a 90-year history of humanitarian relief efforts, the American Friends Service Committee works in troubled regions of the world to promote peace, justice, and reconciliation. AFSC has provided crucial, life-saving assistance to people struggling for survival - whether caught in the crossfire of war or suffering the horrors of earthquake or famine. The Service Committee helps those who are suffering without regard to their religious, ethnic, or political affiliation. Working collaboratively to relieve pain and suffering has been a major focus of the Service Committee's highly regarded international affairs work.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.