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East Africa drought...Africa pledges famine aid

  • Written by  BBC News
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African leaders have raised more than $350m (£215m) in aid for 12 million people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa's worst drought in decades. Some $1.2bn of the $2.5bn the UN says is needed has been raised worldwide. Civil society organisations said they were disappointed that just four African heads of state attended the African Union summit in Ethiopia.

But the AU said it was not a question of who showed up, but rather how much money was raised. The much-delayed conference was the first of its kind for the AU and was aimed at meeting the shortfall in global efforts to raise money for humanitarian relief.

'Not peaked'

Ahead of the meeting, African Union Commission chief Jean Ping urged Africans to "act out against hunger by providing both cash and in-kind support for urgent life-saving assistance to our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa".

This summit is charting a new course for the African Union. Neither the AU, nor its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, were designed to raise funds to fight disasters. Rather, they were born out of a need to counter interference by the superpowers - the US and the Soviet Union - and to resist the apartheid system in South Africa.

Now the AU is being asked to take on very different tasks - like co-ordinating peacekeeping missions in Sudan and Somalia. But tackling the worst famine Somalia has faced in modern times is a problem on an altogether different scale.

The response so far has been too little, too late - a point highlighted by callers to the BBC. Many feel their leaders care little for the plight of the poor. African presidents in the past became become notorious for hoarding funds for their personal use.

Asha Rose Migiro, the UN's deputy secretary general, told the conference that "the future of an entire generation hangs in the balance".

"We are still not reaching all the people who need help, and the crisis still has not peaked. The cost in human suffering will rise even higher. We must do all that we can to stop the acceleration," AFP news agency quotes her as saying.  READ FULL STORY

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