At least $218 million in new aid for the Horn of Africa was pledged today at a United Nations mini-summit held to raise awareness about the region’s humanitarian crisis and tackle the root causes of its recurring drought-related food shortages.
Representatives of 13 countries – Norway, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Ireland, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Russia, Luxembourg, Chile and Hungary – offered the extra funding during a day-long meeting that brought together officials from more than 60 nations.
With those pledges, about $500 million is still need to meet the overall humanitarian appeal for the Horn of Africa of $2.48 billion.
Thanking the governments who made pledges today, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said it was it was vital to keep the crisis in the spotlight given the scale of the suffering.
An estimated 13 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are facing severe food shortages as a result of the prolonged drought. Famine has so far been formally declared in six areas of Somalia.
“Together we must act to help the millions suffering in the Horn of Africa now, and find sustainable ways to build resilience against future drought and food crises,” Ms. Amos said.
Earlier at the mini-summit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the countries of the region and international donors to take a long-term view.
“Addressing underlying risk factors is among the keys to ensuring this crisis does not strike again,” he said.
“Let us not allow drylands to remain investment deserts. Let us ensure that women and children have access to basic health care and water. Let us work for stability to allow markets to flourish.”
He noted that successful programmes in Ethiopia and Kenya have helped ensure that, despite the worst drought in six decades, there is no famine. “This is a profound achievement that can be replicated some day in Somalia. We will see drought again – with increasing frequency. But drought need not become famine.”
The UN and its partners are providing food, health care and other assistance to an estimated more than one million people and progress has been made in helping those most in need in Somalia, but more remains to be done, the Secretary-General said.
“We could save many more lives if we were given free access to areas under the control of al-Shabaab [insurgents]. It is no coincidence that these are the districts where the crisis is most acute. Somalia will never be free of the threat of famine until it has peace and stability.”
The World Food Programme’s (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran echoed Mr. Ban’s remarks.
“While droughts may not be preventable, famines are,” she said. “In areas where the humanitarian community has access, millions of hungry are being reached with life-saving action and lasting hunger solutions are being deployed that cover the full spectrum of food security.”
The President of the General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser told today’s gathering that the current session of the Assembly will produce a draft resolution on strengthening humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, which will be an opportunity for Member States to demonstrate their commitment to addressing the crisis.
He said one of his key priorities during the session will be improving disaster prevention and response.
“As the world’s pre-eminent forum for international peace and security, it is our collective responsibility to provide moral and financial support to these highly vulnerable populations,” said Mr. Al-Nasser. “The right to food, life and security are, after all, universal human rights.”
At a news conference to launch the Charter to End Extreme Hunger, which is backed by a coalition of aid agencies and civil society, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the first senior government official from the region to support the initiative, said famine was an attack on the conscience of mankind.
“We should never allow people to starve, sometimes to death, because of famine which is preventable,” said Mr, Odinga. “I am hopeful that this charter, which I am aware will evolve over the next few weeks, will make a real difference.”
Irish musician and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof spoke of a “perfect storm of social challenges” that the world seems incapable of dealing with because of the speed with which they have come. He called for the universal adoption of the charter by all world leaders and international organizations.