A song for the Horn of Africa

From the hushed and well-trimmed lawns of Ivy League college Dartmouth, to the dusty expanses of the Horn of Africa, that is where Peace Exchange is heading today.

What’s the connection? We’ll admit it’s not obvious at first.

After all, in the first environment, one conjures up the confident presence of students who have every expectation of enjoying a life of achievement, self-betterment and financial security.

Whereas in the second, the mind re-visits the all-too-familiar images of desperately emaciated individuals, queuing to receive a tiny portion of food in the ongoing grip of famine and war, staring listlessly off into a hopeless future or taking to the seas to man pirate ships in a fierce resolve to survive.

Indeed, countries in the Horn of Africa have been facing severe drought and the worst food crisis in 20 years, affecting an estimated 13 million people.

Nonetheless, while the thumbnail sketches of the two environments convey enough of the truth to establish a contrast, there is always the stuff happening behind the scenes as well, which may not be as immediately obvious.

For one thing, agencies such as UNDP are engaged with humanitarian actors in the region as an essential part of the response, addressing underlying factors of livelihoods and governance. In Somalia in particular, UNDP is navigating a course between the obstacles – Al Shabaab militia on the ground, which recently banned some international relief agencies from working in the areas they control, and pirates off the coast – to employ, train and rehabilitate Somalis, especially its youth.

Meanwhile, grassroots advocacy organisations such as ONE are using all manner of creative campaigns online to continue to draw attention to the famine in the Horn of Africa.

And yet a third category – such as the young singers of the a cappella group Dartmouth Aires who appear in the UNDP-sponsored video above – are offering their talents to entertain while offering service.

Following their success in a nationally-televised ‘Sing Off’ competition, the Ivy League vocalists enthusiastically lent their skill to record the public service message above, calling all of their fans and viewers to check out what UNDP is doing in the Horn of Africa, and to find out how to get involved.

In the Aires’ own words, the objective is to: “make the first famine of the 21st century, the last”.

Peace Exchange invites you to listen to the Dartmouth Aires’ beautiful song – chosen because it evokes a close-knit clan scattered to distant regions, much as the ongoing Horn of Africa famine has forced starving families to leave their villages and walk, often for weeks, in search of food – and to consider how many different yet collective approaches there are to securing peace and prosperity.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about UNDP’s work in Somalia, check out the short documentary below.

That’s all for this time. Join us again for more good stuff soon.

Until then, stay warm and dry and… see you in the next post!


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