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Student activists mobilize as Somalia faces severe flooding

Courtesy of Nathan Alam ’21
Courtesy of Nathan Alam ’21

According to the latest figures from the United Nations, floods in Somalia's Hiraan region have now displaced 370,000 people, 200,000 of whom are children. With the overflow of the Shabelle river early this October, numerous communities found themselves submerged and trapped in their homes. For many, the events in Somalia represent the increasingly severe and immediate impacts of climate change. 

These dire circumstances have prompted philanthropic responses around the globe, many of them arising online through platforms like GoFundMe and Facebook. One such appeal has come from Sirad Hassan ’20, who has spent the last month helping the victims of the floods.


Unimpressed with the international media coverage and increasingly concerned about the situation in her parents' country of origin, Hassan decided to mobilize. First, through a GoFundMe Page, she compiled a meticulous fundraising appeal including a video with first hand accounts of the impacts. However, for Hassan, this was not enough. She felt she needed to do more.

“Since this was during the Thanksgiving season, we decided to call it Gratitude Grams,” she said. “I texted some friends, including Nathan Alam ’21, Nourhan Ibrahim ’20, Imane Mabrouk ’21, and others, and soon enough I had over eight groups from campus (The Muslim Students Association, Black Pre-Med Society, Arab Society, Conservation Society, Student Climate Initative, NSBE, SAIP, and more) who were supporting and helping publicize the issue through the distribution of gratitude grams.”

Hassan credits her friend and roommate Mikaylah Laude '20 with the idea of the gratitude grams. According to Hassan, the endeavour would have been impossible without her help. 

By Nov. 23, Hassan had recruited a team of around 20 students to help make and distribute the "Gratitude Grams,” each filled with tea, chocolate, and other small treats. In the end, the team compiled 230 "Gratitude Grams,” fulfilling each order. 

An example of tackling an issue far, far, far outside the “Orange Bubble,” Hassan made the case for increased student activism and engagement with global issues. 

"Princeton students definitely should care more about issues outside of the Orange bubble! There is a whole world outside of this small space, and we need to do what we can to make an impact, whether it be large or small, near our homes or away from it. Our education here should be the stepping stone for us to be better resources for those around us who are in need."


Without Tigerbook, Hassan’s team was unable to make all of the deliveries. She ensures that pick up times will be arranged throughout reading period and finals for the remaining students to retrieve their orders. 

Organizations like UNICEF fear that the worst outcomes of these flooding events are yet to come. In a report published by UNICEF this November, UNICEF's Somali Representative Werner Schultink said, “If we do not act decisively, the impact of these floods will be felt in Somalia long after the water levels recede.”

According to the report, “Food insecurity, lack of healthcare and access to safe water and sanitation will result in spikes in malnutrition among Somali children and cause a deadly cycle of fast-spreading waterborne diseases.”

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