U.S. NGOs urge strong global response to East Africa crisis
WASHINGTON (July 19, 2011)The United Nations is expected to officially declare famine in parts of southern Somalia tomorrow (Wednesday, July 20), marking a new phase in a crisis that has affected the East Africa region.
Governments need to wake up to the severity of this crisis and meet critical funding needs. Severe malnutrition rates, acute hunger and alarming refugee flows demand an extraordinary international response, said Samuel A. Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based international NGOs.
At least 25 of InterActions members are responding to the crisis in East Africa, which has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years, spiraling food prices and ongoing conflict. More than 11 million people are at risk, according to U.N. estimates, and hundreds of thousands have fled Somalia to overcrowded refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The response by the humanitarian community has been hampered by complex security issues as well as legal restrictions in place to prevent donor funds from reaching extremist groups such as al-Shabaab, which controls much of southern Somalia.
Al-Shabaab has said it will allow international humanitarian groups access to affected areas, a promise it needs to keep if aid is to reach populations most in need.
For aid to flow into southern Somalia at the levels required, al-Shabaab will have to cease its harassment of international aid agencies and staff, while the U.S. and other donor governments will have to trust the procedures of experienced aid organizations to ensure that aid reaches vulnerable people without diversion, said Worthington.
The U.S. government has provided $383 million in fiscal year 2011, including emergency food, water and hygiene supplies.
While the United States has been more generous than other nations, we need to do more. We appeal to U.S. lawmakers not to cut budgets that could affect millions affected by this crisis. It is the right thing to do, said Worthington.