15 Jul 2011

Africa drought – a tough week to launch an appeal?

Seven days after the DEC launched its East Africa drought appeal Britons have donated £15m but Channel 4 News asks one charity boss whether news events elsewhere have affected donations.

Seven days after the DEC launched its East Africa drought appeal Britons have donated £15m (Getty)

The facts and figures emerging from East Africa are alarming: it is the area’s worst drought in 60 years, 370,000 people are crammed into the world’s largest refugee camp, more than 10 million have been affected.

In the seven days since the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launched its East Africa drought appeal the news has been largely dominated by the phone-hacking scandal surrounding the News of the World and News International.

But have the events of the last seven days hindered fundraising efforts?

Save the Children’s chief executive Justin Forsyth, who is currently in Kenya, denies the tumultuos news events have affected donations: “The drought has still been a big news story and the British public has responded. It is deep in the psyche of British people to donate at times like this.”

Channel 4 News has compared figures from the DEC’s last two appeals – the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods – with the East Africa drought appeal.

In the six days following Haiti Britons donated £25m; in the six days after the Pakistan appeal was launched £5m was pledged (the Pakistan appeal did pick up significantly as the months passed).

The DEC’s East Africa appeal is currently sitting in the middle at £15m after one week.

Justin Forsyth said that the British response had been “amazing” but that hundreds of millions of pounds would be needed long-term to help the victims of the disaster.

He said: “We need to up our response. We’re already doing a lot but we hope to be able to do more.”

The East Africa drought has left Kenya on the brink of disaster (Getty)

‘Kenya on the brink’

People in Somalia have been worst hit by the crisis. The lack of rain combined with prolonged fighting have left almost three million in need of urgent life-saving assistance.

But according to Justin Forsyth the north of Kenya is also “on the brink”.

“In Kenya children are already dying, families have buried their children and we’re seeing people at the stage just before they die,” he said.

“Kenya is right on the brink … but we should be able to stop northern Kenya falling into famine if we act now, there is no conflict like in Somalia.”

The head of the UN Refugee Agency, Antonio Guterres has described the drought as the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster” and appealed for massive support, particularly to help those in the Dadaab refugee camp.

To donate to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal, click here, call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900 or donate over the counter at any post office or high street bank, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word CRISIS to 70000.