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August 11, 2011

ONE Campaign Raises Awareness for Somali Famine

by Julia Laurence

Group, co-founded by rock musician Bono, also supports programs that would help withstand drought

More than 12 million people are believed be at risk in the Horn of Africa and the advocacy group ONE wants to raise awareness of the crisis as a first step to action.

Kimberly Hunter, the U.S. press secretary for the group, said, "We’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice. That’s really what the primary mission of our organization is: to be a kind of political force for the world’s poorest and be a voice for those who don’t have one in congress.”

Hunter says raising awareness of issues and getting the word out to its members is the group’s primary task.  The group’s website says it has two-and-a-half million members. The ONE campaign is concerned with helping to erase the United Nation’s $1 billion budget deficit and supporting programs to end hunger and poverty around the world.

Sheila Nix, the group’s U.S. executive director, said, "A lot of our members come from the faith community, or students, or returning veterans, or women, and those voices are really important for members of congress to hear from, especially from their local districts. So our ONE members have been very effective in working with some of our other partner groups to achieve some of these goals.”

And Nix adds that ONE also encourages programs that will help prevent future droughts.

“What we also point out," she said, "is in the long term, these situations can be prevented for the most part with some adequate investments in agriculture to help countries survive drought issues. You’ll even see that in Kenya and Ethiopia the situation is not as bad as it might have been because of investments in better agriculture practices and early warning systems and we’d like to make sure that, especially in these times of budget cuts, that those kind of programs don’t get cut.”

ONE is a strong supporter of a U.S. initiative to address hunger and poverty called Feed the Future, which was launched in May 2010.  Nix and the head of the World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, recently joined the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Raj Shah, in a conference call with ONE members.

“We are embarking on a long term strategy," explained Shah, "where President Obama in 2009, together with world leaders at the G20, announced a major effort - Feed the Future -  to make sure that we invested in agriculture and the long term solutions to these types of famines and food riots.  It’s important that the world lives up to those commitments.”

While the voice a ONE’s co-founder Bono is important in getting the word out, Nix says it is its members that have become a fighting voice advocating for people in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa as the drought worsens. Nix believes the voices of the group prove that efforts to raise awareness about the famine are just as important and effective as efforts to raise money.