Relief SCENE:Drought
AU Famine Session Disappointing
Poor Turnout as $350 Million Pledged
By RASHID NUUNE 08/26/2011
IDPs await aid in Mogadishu
©Somalia Report
IDPs await aid in Mogadishu

The African Union yesterday held an emergency conference in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to raise money for the drought ravaged millions, mainly Somalis who are suffering from the worst drought in six decades.

The much-delayed AU emergency session finally kicked off with only four head of States present at the conference, despite calls for African assistance to the victims of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe mainly in Somalia

$350 million was promised by the participants, with the African Development Bank (AfDB) putting up $300 million to long-term development in the Horn of Africa and the remaining $46 million pledged by several African countries.

The African Union emergency meeting was initially planned August 9, but was postponed by two weeks due to unknown reasons with deaths and malnutrition cases on the rise in most parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Speaking at the conference, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the AU to take leadership, also asking private industry to do its part.

“Regional organizations, including the African Union, are playing an essential role in offering the know-how and support,” he said. “That is why it is so important that the African Union takes its rightful place at the forefront of the response to this crisis.”

However, only four heads of governments attended the session, namely Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Somali leader Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Gelle and the AU Chairman, who is also the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Earlier this month the AU said that urgent humanitarian assistance is crucial to alleviate the impact of the drought which has deprived people from water, sanitation, health, basic food and nutritional.

"The conference is meant to galvanize resources on the continent primarily in order to fill the funding gap, put together an emergency response, and to sensitize African leaders and the international community on medium and long terms crisis mitigation strategy," the AU said.

Slow African response

The African continent has been criticised for its response, while Arab nations spearhead assistance. Turkey, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudii Arabia, Qatar and others have donated cash. Turkey hosted a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, which gave it a chance to display Islamic piety and flex its diplomatic muscle in Africa at a time other emerging powers are also scrambling for trade and investment in the resource-rich continent. The 51 member countries pledged $350 million in aid to fight famine in Somalia.

The poor pledges in Addis Ababa did little to quell the negative comments aimed at the AU.

"We are disappointed that the pledges are less than the minimum of $50m that Africans Act 4 Africa set as a target," The Guardian quoted the pan-African fundraising group as saying. "If Andrew Adansi-Bonnah, an 11-year-old Ghanaian boy can miss school and travel to Addis Ababa to demonstrate his commitment to raising funds and adding his voice, why couldn't more African leaders have done the same?"

Jerry Rawlings, the African Union High Representative to Somalia, while touring Badbado IDP complex in Mogadishu, said that the African countries need to be on the forefront in assisting Somalia in the spirit of Africanism.

"We need not look further for assistance but first let’s assist each other avert the looming catastrophe," Rawlings told Somalia Report whilst in Badbado camp. ‘‘ I call on the African countries to come out openly and assist the people of Somalia, let’s not wait for the international Community all the time but let us create our own plan that will see us overcome such disasters.”

Gift of the Givers foundation, a South Africa-based humanitarian organization with offices in Mogadishu, also called for more African response.

Imtiaz Sooliman the founder and head of the non-governmental organization told Somalia Report that they are here to answer to the dire humanitarian situation facing the Somali people.

Asked by Somalia Report about the deteriorating situation in Somalia and the slow Africa response, Imtiaz said that Somalia need not rely on the international community but more importantly on the African countries that assist each other at all times since this is an African crisis.