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Published: 4 Aug. 2011
Washington, D.C. - Last night, anti-poverty advocacy group ONE hosted a conference call with USAID Administrator Raj Shah, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran, and Somali-Minnesotan Ali Ali to educate ONE members about the growing famine threatening the lives of 11.6 million men, women and children in the Horn of Africa, and how they can use their voices to raise awareness and take action.
The call, moderated by ONE U.S. Executive Director Sheila Nix, included first-person reports from on-the-ground, updates on ONE's campaign and petition asking world leaders to address the UN's call for emergency assistance funding, and a look at long-term solutions like U.S. efforts to increase agricultural productivity that enable families to grow food to feed themselves and help prevent future famine.
"We appreciate Administrator Shah, WFP Director Sheeran, and Mr. Ali for taking the time to raise awareness of the immediate and effective work of world governments and on-the-ground aid organizations that are critical in delivering lifesaving assistance to millions of men, women, and children," said ONE U.S. Executive Director Sheila Nix, who moderated the call. "More immediate help is needed from the international community, but we cannot forget the big picture solutions that fight the root causes of world hunger like helping poor farmers in the developing world grow more food to feed themselves and their families."
In recent weeks, the UN has declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia, due to what is being called one of the worst droughts in the past 60 years. This has left more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa - greater than the populations of Houston and New York City combined- desperately in need of food, emergency agricultural assistance, clean water and basic sanitation.
"When you go and visit Dadaab [refugee camp in Kenya] and stand in the intake center, and see young child after young child show up after a long trek from South and Central Somalia, acutely malnourished, weak, unable to hold themselves up, you get a sense for how dramatic this famine situation is," said USAID Administrator Raj Shah, who just returned from visiting the region. "The world has a chance right now to live up to the commitments they made in 2009 and even in these tough economic times, make those smart targeted investments because it is much cheaper to deal with this through agriculture development than through failed states and the riots that result when this happens."
World Food Programme head Josette Sheeran warned participants that an entire generation of young children is at risk. Child malnutrition leads to reduced cognitive development, poorer school performance and lower economic productivity and income earning potential later in life. For the tens of thousands of children suffering from acute malnutrition in the Horn of Africa, the specialized nutrition products being distributed by WFP and other aid agencies can mean the difference between life and death.
"Our biggest concern is the need for massive large scale efforts to reach all of those inside Somalia who have been unreached so far," Sheeran said. "The world knows how to act at this scale, if given access to do so."
Ali Ali, a representative from Neighbors for Nations, part of the American Refugee Committee, business owner and member of the Somali Diaspora community from Minneapolis, Minnesota, said "As a Somali-Minnesotan with family living in the areas of famine in Somalia, I ask that the world step up and support the Horn of Africa in this time of crisis to address the immediate needs of basic food, water, and shelter, but also work with Somalis and others to put in place long-term solutions to help prevent famine in the first place."
TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD AUDIO OF THE CALL, PLEASE GO TO: http://s3.amazonaws.com/one.org/audio/one_call_with_members_v2__8-3-11.mp3
Media Notes: For more information or interview requests for U.S. Executive Director Sheila Nix on ONE's efforts around the Horn of Africa, please contact Kimberly Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-344-5494.
ONE is an advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Backed by more than 2.5 million members, we work with government leaders in both parties to support proven, cost-effective solutions to save lives and build sustainable futures.