A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
New campaign says African government response has been slow and small
African governments must provide at least US$50 million in emergency funds for the worsening food crisis in the Horn of Africa, says a new report by the “Africans Act 4 Africa” campaign, signed by 12 Pan African networks. The response from African leaders has so far been much too little and much too late, the report said, and called for better African leadership on the crisis.
The “Africans Act 4 Africa” campaign is launching this week, bringing together activists, celebrities, civil society and the general public from across the continent to pressure African governments to make sure this is the last famine of our lifetimes. Leading Kenyan singers and celebrities – including Sauti Sol, Nameless, Juliani and Sara Mitaru – have already added their voice.
The African Union has so far pledged only $500,000 for the aid effort, and most key governments have pledged even less or nothing at all. The aid response still faces an overall funding shortfall of $1.4 billion. The new report is the first time that there has been a breakdown of how much every African state could contribute, and it called on Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa to lead the way.
“African citizens have already rallied to the cause and made significant contributions. But now we need African governments to follow their lead. Most are yet to make a decent contribution and show the true meaning of “African solutions to African problems”. Every time an African citizen dies in this crisis, the ideals of the African Union are dealt a fatal blow,” said Irungu Houghton, Pan Africa Director of Oxfam International, one of the signatories to the report.
The AU has declared 15 August to be a day of solidarity with the more than 12 million people affected by the crisis. A donor pledging conference is being convened on 25 August. The new report said that the scale of the challenge facing Africa today means this conference is as important as those in 1958 that brought about African independence from colonialism.
“A food independent Africa”
“We need to ensure a food independent Africa. We cannot be truly independent until we are certain that no African citizen can starve to death again. This crisis was wholly preventable. It is symptomatic of a failure to address the root causes of food insecurity in the region. It is incomprehensible that in 2011 anyone should die of starvation. Drought may be inevitable in this region, but it is not inevitable that people starve to death,” said Sara Mitaru, one of Kenya’s foremost artists, rallying other African artists to the cause.
Governments must provide emergency aid now, but also act to tackle the underlying causes of the crisis. Conflict and decades of marginalization has made the crisis worse. Some of the worst affected areas have endured decades of economic under-development. The campaign called on African governments to keep their promises to guarantee basic services, infrastructure and economic opportunities in affected areas.
The report called for measures such as supplying cash in many places rather than food aid; ensuring equal land rights for women; supplying seeds and tools for small-scale farmers; and ensuring pastoralists have access to grazing land.
$50 million is the bare minimum our governments can provide for a crisis of this magnitude, the report said. African governments have given money in the past to support aid efforts after earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, but Africa has yet to act decisively on the current crisis in the Horn of Africa.
Download the report: Africa must act for Africans now in the Horn of Africa
Notes to editors
Kenyan artists and celebrities have recorded video messages to get behind the campaign.
The report is signed by 12 Pan African networks: East Africa Civil Society Forum (EACSF); Eastern and Southern African Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF); Southern Africa Development Community – Council of NGOs; Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR); West African Civil Society Forum (WACSF); Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW); African CSO Platform (ACP); Inter-African Network for Women, Media and Gender; Oxfam International; FEMNET; CESC; West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP)
A breakdown of how much money every African state can contribute is included in the report. It is calculated in relation to how much each country contributes to the African Union.
Alun McDonald, Oxfam Media and Communications Officer, Horn East & Central Africa:
- +254 73666 6663 or +254 202820147
- Twitter: @alunmcdonald