African Leaders to Hold Delayed Fundraiser for Famine

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 3:35 am (UTC-5)
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The African Union will hold a donor conference on Thursday in Ethiopia to raise funds for the 12 million people still in need of emergency food aid in the drought and famine-stricken Horn of Africa.

As many as a dozen African leaders are expected to participate in the meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The meeting had been initially scheduled for early August, but was postponed due to what officials said were scheduling conflicts.

The 54-member African Union, which has so far pledged $500,000 in aid, has been strongly criticized for its slow response to the crisis. Last week, a senior U.N. official said the conference hopes to raise $600 million. The United Nations says $2.5 billion of overall aid is needed to combat the famine.

On Wednesday, Kanayo Nwanze, the head of the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development, welcomed the donor meeting, saying “Africa should not wait for the international community to solve its problems.”

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton earlier urged the African Union and international community to continue to meet their “moral obligation” to combat the drought, which is the Horn of Africa's most dire in 60 years.

The EU said it has increased its yearly humanitarian commitment from $140 million to $228 million, and that its member states have contributed an additional $630 million.

Meanwhile, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro says the international response to the crisis is accelerating, despite restrictions and security concerns in some parts of Somalia, where al-Qaida linked militants had prevented aid groups from distributing aid to millions in need.

Earlier this month, the Organization of the Islamic Conference pledged $350 million to help combat the crisis. The United States has also pledged more than $500 million in food aid and refugee assistance.

The U.N. has declared a famine in five regions of southern Somalia and predicts it will spread throughout the entire south of the country by the end of next month. The extreme drought has also affected parts of Kenya, Ethiopa, Eritrea, and Djibouti.