Activists, artists and business leaders call for urgent help for Horn of Africa

A group of global artists, activists and business leaders have signed a joint letter urging world leaders to step up their response to the famine in the Horn of Africa. They call on them to act “without reservation, prevarication or equivocation” when they meet at an emergency summit in Rome today.

The group, which includes long-time campaigners such as Richard Curtis and Sir Bob Geldof, said:

“As we write, more than 11 million people are suffering the great agony of the worst famine in Africa for many years. It is incomprehensible that in 2011 anyone should die of starvation. $600 million* is needed now for our fellow humans. Not a great sum for the world, even in a time of great economic difficulty for some. Last week European leaders found over hundred times this amount to shore up the euro and bail out banks, yet countries like France, Italy, the Arab States and Germany have so far given miniscule amounts of money to prevent people dying from hunger. Surely this must be unacceptable? A true measure of strength is how one cares for the weak. A true test of power is how one protects the frail.

“Leaders meet today to discuss the food crisis at an emergency meeting in Rome. They all can and should use this meeting to make their pledges and find this money without reservation, prevarication or equivocation. Aid agencies from all over the world are on the ground working with local leaders and helping as many people as possible. Far more can and will be done if the money is found and found fast.

“Beyond the immediate need, action must also be taken to fix the food system. We must see the long-term investment in agriculture to ensure the poorest can feed themselves. Rich countries said they would do this two years ago and shamefully have failed to do so. Too many African leaders have also failed to prioritise agriculture. We all feel the inexorable price rises in our supermarkets. Action on food prices globally can be taken. We know what must be done. We know it is affordable and essential. We have lacked the political will. And that is a failure of leadership.”

Full list of signatories to the letter:

Tutu Agyare, founder and managing partner, Nubuke Investments
Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, author, speaker and business consultant
Yann Arthus-Bertrand, photographer, journalist and environmentalist
Renate Bähr, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung
Paul Bendix, Oxfam Germany
Chris Bain, CAFOD
Kevin Cahill, Comic Relief
Simon Cowell, music executive, television producer, entrepreneur
Richard Curtis, film maker and campaigner
Jamie Drummond, ONE
Peter Eigen, founder of Transparency International and member of the Africa Progress Panel
Justin Forsyth, Save the Children UK
Stephen Fry, actor, author and comedian
Benno Fürmann, actor
Rea Garvey, musician
Bob Geldof, campaigner, musician and member of the Africa Progress Panel
Antony Gormley, sculptor
Guillaume Grosso, ONE France
Tiken Jah Fakoly, musician
Jonathan Ive
, designer
Eddie Izzard, comedian
Tobias Kahlar, ONE Germany
John Kennedy, Band Aid Trust
Luc Lampriere, Oxfam France
Patrice Leconte, film director
Annie Lennox, musician and campaigner
Richard Miller, ActionAid
Michael Mittermeier, comedian
Jana Pallaske, actress
Minh-Khai Phan-Thi, actress and moderator
Kristin Scott Thomas, actress
Barbara Stocking, Oxfam GB

Read more

Oxfam's humanitarian response to the East Africa Food Crisis

Notes to editors

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) is holding an emergency meeting to address the escalating crisis in the Horn of Africa and mobilise international support. The meeting has been called for by France, current president of the Group of 20. FAO's 191 member countries, other UN agencies and international organizations, development banks and non-governmental organizations will be attending. Further details: http://www.fao.org/crisis/emergency_meeting2011/en/

* On 24 July, the UN revised upwards the level of funding required by an extra $300m for Somalia. This brings the total funding needs for the crisis from $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion. The funding shortfall therefore increases a similar amount from $600 million to $900 million.

Contact information

For more information contact:

UK/International: Katie Martin, +44 (0)7500 797599 or katie.martin@one.org

France: Verena von Derschau, +33 631 22 8968 or verena.vonderschau@one.org

Germany: Sergius Seebohm, +49 (0)1732 490094 or Sergius.seebohm@one.org

Europe: Angela Corbalan, +32 473 56 22 60, or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org, @AngelaCorbalan