Published on 25 Jul 2011 Sections , ,

‘Stop talking and act now’ on Africa drought

As ministers meet in Rome to discuss how to get aid to the drought-hit Horn of Africa region, an aid worker in Somalia tells Channel 4 News they should “stop talking and act now” or children will die.

UN meeting in Rome on East Africa drought must 'act now' (Getty).

Ministers and senior officials met today at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome to discuss getting aid to the crippled region from Somalia to Ethiopia, Kenya to Djibouti.

The World Food Programme said it needs an extra $360m in urgent funds and Oxfam said that overall another $1bn is needed to handle the worsening situation. In a statement, the World Bank said it was providing more than $500m to assist drought victims, on top of $12m in immediate help for those worst hit.

In a joint statement, Britain’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd urged other Governments to step up and give money. Both nations have already donated significant amounts.

We want to make sure the supplies are there along the road because some of them are becoming roads of death. UN’s Josette Sheeran

The statement read: “Our Governments are also providing considerable support to the people of the Horn of Africa as our two countries lead the world in quick and decisive action to make very clear that it is obscene that any child should starve to death.

Britain and Australia will help provide life-saving support, including food and water for almost four million people…It is shameful that there are European nations that have donated less than Sudan which, despite its relative poverty, is still doing what it can to help its neighbours.”

Aid workers ‘overwhelmed’

Last week the UN declared famine in two areas in Somalia and warned that it would spread unless there was more help.

Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, told the UN conference in Rome that a deadly combination of natural disaster and regional conflict had created an emergency affecting more than 12 million people.

Charities urge Governments to 'act now' on Somalia (Reuters)

“We are seeing all the points able to distribute food completely overwhelmed…our food is not adequate, so we are airlifting in more life saving supplies,” she said.

“We want to make sure the supplies are there along the road because some of them are becoming roads of death where mothers are having to abandon their children who are too weak to make it or who have died along the way,” she said.

Rachel Palmer, an aid worker with Save The Children in Somalia’s Puntland, told Channel 4 News that the victims needed help now, not more discussion.

“I would say stop talking and act now basically,” she said.

“That’s what the mothers here are saying. One mother told me today that it’s disturbing seeing what she has seen in the areas she has left behind. She’s 26 and she said she’s never seen anything like this in her lifetime.”

Ms Palmer said the end result was simple if Governments failed to act.

“It’s quite simple really, children will die. Some help is getting through, it just needs to be a lot more. People here were living on the edge anyway and this is pushing people over the edge. The British Government and public have been incredible but other governments need to step up to the mark.”

Click here to donate to the Save The Children East Africa appeal, or 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. 

You can also donate £5 by texting the word CRISIS to 70000 or sending a cheque.