Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke hosted a briefing on December 1, entitled "Unemployed Youth as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Root Cause and Ultimate Solution to Somalia's Problems." Members of Congress and staffers heard from Dr. Hodan Isse, the first lady of Somalia, who discussed ways to bolster relations between the U.S. and Somalia. Dr. Isse also identified how Congress could help create and share security strategies to effectively facilitate humanitarian efforts that circumvent the strong presence of al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization impeding foreign aid in famine stricken regions in central and southern Somalia. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke made the following statement at the briefing:
"Good Afternoon. It is an honor for me to be here with you today to introduce the First Lady of Somalia, Dr. Hodan Isse. As a Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I have been uniquely positioned and keenly aware of the numerous threats facing our country and particularly having witnessed the horrifying events of 9/11 firsthand. Somalia is at the forefront of homeland security issues, with the strong presence of al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization that has devastated famine stricken regions in central and southern Somalia.
"It is of vital importance that we effectively facilitate security strategies and reinforce our relationship with Somalia. This can be done with our continued support to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which can help mobilize the Somali people to define their own destiny as well as securing our nation from future attacks.
"The collapse of the Somali government in 1991 resulted in widespread civil war and famine. A mission led by the United Nations, which was intended to provide humanitarian assistance to the country for the most part primarily in southern and central Somalia failed and has remained stagnant.
"The World Bank estimates that the life expectancy of a child born in Somalia today is expected to live only 50 years, another polarizing statistic estimates that there are 109 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
"First Lady Dr. Hodan Isse understands these compelling figures, and the gravity of the situation not only as the First Lady of Somalia, but also from the perceptive of a mother. Along with her husband, Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, both American citizens who have lived in the United States of America since 1985, left their comfortable surroundings and accepted the challenge to fight on behalf of the suffering people of their homeland despite the existing dangers.
"First Lady Dr. Hodan Isse, is an economics professor at the University of Buffalo, board member of the Jewish- Muslim Friendship in Western New York, she is also the founder of H.E.A.L. International (Helping Everyone Achieve Livelihood). H.E.A.L. is a non-profit organization founded to help recent refugees with various services including programs in women's empowerment, education, youth services, conflict resolution and cultural integration to those new in the Diaspora. Currently, she is helping draft the Somali Constitution, which she believes will move Somalia forward to become part of the world community and a democratic society.
"As the Representative of the 11th Congressional District of New York, I represent a large population of first and second generation immigrations from the African Diaspora. I know the personal dedication those in the Diaspora have in helping their homeland. I am excited to hear First Lady, Dr. Hodan Isse discuss how she and her husband are working to combat the recruitment of young Somalis into extremist organizations.