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More Funds Needed to Fight E. Africa Famine

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Mariama Diallo

Music super stars such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Justin Bieber are encouraging their fans to donate money for the famine victims in the Horn of Africa region.  They're among a list of more than 150 celebrities supporting a new initiative by the humanitarian group "Save the Children." This comes as some aid agencies say that, without more funding, it will be difficult to continue providing the help the region needs.

The newest fund-raising effort from "Save the Children" is being called the "I'm Gonna Be Your Friend" campaign, echoing a line from singer Bob Marley's 1973 track "High Tide or Low Tide."

The group hopes to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the millions of famine victims in the Horn of Africa region.  Other agencies are also appealing for more money in order to continue their work in East Africa.  Charity Tooze is with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"We are appealing for close to $145 million for the situation in the entire region so far that appeal is only 61 percent met," said Tooze.

Tooze says with the number of refugees skyrocketing on a daily basis, her agency struggles to meet all the needs.

Definition of Famine:

The word famine is a term that is not used lightly by humanitarian organizations. The United Nations describes a crisis as a famine only when the following conditions are met:

  • Malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent
  • More than two people per 10,000 people are dying each day
  • Severe lack of food access for large population

Current Famine:

    Almost half of Somalia's population, 3.7 million people, are affected by the current crisis with malnutrition rates in southern Somalia the highest in the world, surpassing 50 per cent in some areas. The United Nations says it is likely that tens of thousands have already have died, the majority of those being children.

    The drought that has led to the current famine in parts of Somalia has also affected people in Kenya and Ethiopia.

    Previous Famines in the Horn of Africa:

  • Somalia 1991-1992
  • Ethiopia 1984-1985
  • Ethiopia 1974


"We are desperately seeking to increase the amount of funding that we have," added Tooze.  "We just distributed about 100,000 emergency packages, which included jerry cans, high energy biscuits, sheets.  We are low on tents and those are the most expensive items and obviously the most needed items when so many people are uprooted."

Tooze says it is UNHCR's mandate to provide humanitarian help.  And while there is no fear that aid will run out immediately, she says, there are still some concerns.

"We are going through our reserves very quickly," Tooze explained.  "There is some concern that if our appeal is not met over the next couple of months, we won't be able to continue to provide the amount of aid we are now."

Fundraising efforts are taking place in other parts of the globe as well.  In a recent visit to South Korea, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his commitment to help ease the suffering in east Africa.

"You can count on me and I have a firm commitment that even during my five-year second term, this Africa challenge will continue to be my priority," said Ban.

And in New York, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg told U.N. Security Council members the situation remains precarious.

"By the time I go to bed tonight, 13 people, six of whom will be under five would've died and tomorrow 13 will also die and will continue the day after that unless we can reverse the trend," said Bragg.

So far, the U.N. has received less than 50 percent of the $1 billion it had appealed for, to support its humanitarian relief operation.

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