Business, Economics and Jobs

Somalia famine: Africa pledges $350 million


A displaced Somali refugee cradles her severely emaciated child at the Dadaab Refugee camp, in eastern Kenya, where around 1,500 people are arriving every day in search of food, water and medical care.


Tony Karumba

African countries pledged $351.7 million in cash to help those hungry from the drought and famine gripping the Horn of Africa.

By far the largest donation was $300 million from the African Development Bank. African governments pledged $46 million for the crisis. 

The pledges were made at an African Union summit meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Only four African heads of state attended the event, which was postponed from earlier this month.

Some non-governmental organizations and charities criticized the African governments for not contributing more.

"We are disappointed that the pledges are less than the minimum of $50 million that Africans Act 4 Africa set as a target," said the pan-African fundraising group, according to the Guardian. 

Three African countries provided nearly half of the pledges: Algeria vowed to give $10 million, Angola $5 million and Egypt $5 million. Nigeria gave $2 million, less than some of its neighbors with smaller economies. South Africa was also viewed as tightfisted. The charity Oxfam pointed out that only $1.3 million of South Africa's pledge came from government sources and the rest came from individual donations. The South African government's donation was about the same as from South Sudan, Africa's newest state.

On the other hand, Gambia, Mauritania and Congo-Brazzaville gave more than their proportional share, said the charities.

The African Union has come under fire for moving at slowly to raise funds to help hungry Africans. Before the pledging conference today, Africa had pledged only $500,000.

"If we truly believe in 'African solutions for African problems,' we need to demonstrate this very clearly, not just in words but in actions," said Africans Act 4 Africa, according to the Guardian. "We need to ensure this is not just another talk shop where AU leaders spend a lot of money on travel, protocol and their entourages."

Jean Ping, chairman of the AU commission, praised Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti for opening their doors to refugees.

Famine has been declared in five regions of Somalia, the country hardest hit by the drought, compounded by a long-running civil war. The U.N. says about 12.4 million people in East Africa are in need of emergency help and is seeking contributions to plug a $1.1bn funding shortfall.

Last week, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) countries pledged $350 million in aid for Somalia at an emergency summit in Istanbul. Its secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, said he hoped to soon raise the commitments to $500 million.

The money was pledged by African countries at a conference held by the African Union in response to the worst drought in the Horn of African region for 60 years.

In addition $28 million was promised in food and supplies, said Ping.

An estimated 12.5 million people are in need of food in several East African countries, according to the United Nations, with Somalia the most severely affected. Aid agencies cannot operate in areas in Somalia held by the Al Shabaab rebels, who are allied with Al Qaeda. Al Shabaab has been fighting the Western-backed transitional government since 2007. More than 600,000 Somali refugees have already fled to over-burdened camps in neighboring states, Ping said.

The Addis Ababa conference marks the first “large scale” African effort to deal with a humanitarian crisis.

The funding includes $300 million from the Tunis-based African Development Bank in loans and grants for the region through 2013, said the bank's Country Director Lamin Barrow to Bloomberg.

The international response has been “slow and tardy,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. A quicker effort to deal with a crisis that was predicted “almost a year ago” could have been made, said Irungu Houghton, Oxfam Pan-Africa Director, to Bloomberg.

“People have to die, people have to be seen with extending and protruding bellies,” he said. “We have to see misery in order for some of our political leaders to take responsibility.”