Erdoğan, who was accompanied on this trip to Somalia by his family and five Cabinet ministers, has in recent days appealed for more food aid for the drought-stricken nation and lashed out at wealthy Western nations for not doing more to help. Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed welcomed Erdoğan at the airport with a warm embrace. At one dusty, windswept refugee settlement, Erdoğan crouched inside the tent of Bashir and Fatima, a young couple mourning the deaths of two of their four children, who died after a 90 kilometer (55 mile) hike to Mogadishu. Erdoğan’s wife Emine handed out chocolates and sweets.
On Wednesday the member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pledged $350 million in aid to fight the famine, which has left 3.7 million Somalis at risk of dying of hunger. Erdoğan has said he hoped the OIC’s efforts would jolt the consciences of those ignoring the ongoing humanitarian emergency. A pious Muslim, he has called the disaster a “litmus test” for all humanity.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, one of the ministers accompanying Erdoğan, said there was no reason why Somalia cannot overcome the famine, calling for international assistance. “People should come here and fulfill their humanitarian responsibilities so that Somalia can get back on its feet,” Davutoğlu told reporters after a visit to a refugee camp set up by the Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kızılay) in Mogadishu together with Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Said Korshel. The foreign minister said he hoped the Turkish prime minister’s visit would be a “flare” that would alert more people to the need to reach out to the victims of the famine in Somalia.