20 Jul 2011

Rawlings pleads for aid to ease Somalia famine

A tearful Jerry Rawlings, Ghana’s former president, tells Jon Snow that “We’ll be burying lots of children soon” unless aid money and medical supplies are received to alleviate the Somalia famine.

Former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings is leading the African Union’s efforts to deal with the famine in Somalia. He spoke to Jon Snow this afternoon from Mogadishu.

Mr Rawlings said he believed up to £1bn was needed to deal with the situation in the longer term. “But right now, for the next few weeks, as early as possible, I think something to the tune of $250m.”

Mr Rawlings drew attention to the African Union soldiers who have taken on the extremists in Somalia. “They’re so ill-equipped, but they’re doing a fantastic job,” he said.

From about two weeks – three, four, five – we’ll be burying lots of children if we don’t respond quickly. Jerry Rawlings

He made a “serious appeal to the international community, who have more than enough to share” to fly food and medical equipment as quickly as possible into Somalia. And He urged people not to be blinded by their prejudices about the Horn of Africa – specifically, in connection with the presence of extremists and, off the Somalia coast, of pirates.

He told Channel 4 News he believed the combatants in Somalia when they said they would stand aside and allow the delivery of medical supplies and food into the country. “Let’s make the effort! We’re on the ground to make sure food supplies get to them.”

What is more, not all of the combatants were extremists, according to Mr Rawlings. “Some of them are just poor people, desperate and looking for jobs and looking for some salary, some pay. Some of them are fighting for patriotic reasons.”

‘We’re asking for a miracle’

Describing what he had seen this morning during a visit to a camp near Mogadishu, an emotional Mr Rawlings said: “I’m not sure many of them will be alive in the next week or two.”

He continued: “From about two weeks – three, four, five – we’ll be burying lots of children if we don’t respond quickly. We’re asking for a miracle – not from the good Lord but from governments, establishments, companies, corporations who have done very good business in Africa.”

Mr Rawlings pledged that when foreign aid finally arrived, air drops would be arranged in areas where the necessary infrastructure was lacking – “just as you do in other places”.

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