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Oxfam Urges African Governments to Give More to Famine Relief

  • Michael Onyiego

Children from southern Somalia, receive food in Mogadishu, Aug 15, 2011

Children from southern Somalia, receive food in Mogadishu, Aug 15, 2011

As calls for assistance to fight the famine in Somalia increase, aid group Oxfam says African countries must also do their part to alleviate the suffering.

Following a declaration by the African Union, countries around the continent are observing a day of solidarity and awareness with the victims of the ongoing famine in Somalia. But at the same time, a coalition of civil society and relief organizations gathered to criticize the African response to the food crisis sweeping across the Horn of Africa.

The group, Africans Act 4 Africa, is calling for the continent to do more.

Since bursting into the public eye just over a month ago, response to the drought and subsequent famine has largely been led by humanitarian groups and the United Nations. Western nations, particularly in Europe and North America, have pledged significant funds to relief efforts, but Oxfam International spokesperson Anne Mitaru says African leaders have not played a large enough role in addressing the crisis.

“There is general disappointment that can be felt across the continent. What was missing is the African voice. The bold African voice, the bold African face of leadership on this matter,” said Mitaru.

And beyond leadership, Africans Act 4 Africa, known simply as AA4A, says the continent is not pulling its financial weight. People in countries like Kenya and South Africa have organized donation drives to contribute to famine relief, but with aid efforts facing a $1.3 billion shortfall, AA4A says the governments will need to get involved.

The African Union initially announced a contribution of around $500,000. South Africa also announced an initial contribution of more than $150,000. But Oxfam’s Mitaru says such contributions are unacceptable.

“When you look at the South African economy, one of the largest, actually the leading, biggest economy on the continent, $150,000 is a poor show," said Mitaru. African governments may not have the resources to entirely meet the funding gap, but they cannot not be part of the solution.”

South Africa has since upped its pledge to around $1 million, and Botswana, Sudan and other countries have pledged money. But Africans Act 4 Africa says the continent’s governments can do better. In just more than a week, the Kenyans for Kenya campaign has already generated over $2 million from private and public donations.

Oxfam and the AA4A coalition are calling for African governments to raise at least $50 million towards famine relief in Somalia. The groups released a report that breaks down how much each government can allegedly afford to contribute. The report says South Africa, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt and Algeria should donate more than $5 million each.

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