Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Incredible generosity' for ABC East Africa Appeal - ABC Melbourne - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

16 August, 2011 4:22PM AEST

'Incredible generosity' for ABC East Africa Appeal

The ABC joined forces with Australia for UNHCR and launched the East Africa Appeal on Friday 12 August to raise funds for the people in the drought stricken region of East Africa.

Make a donation by calling 1300 440 433 or visit the East Africa Appeal and help spread the word while watching the donation tally rise on Twitter @ABCAppeal

At 5pm on Tuesday 16 August Australia for UNHCR confirmed $715,000 had been raised from the appeal.

Witness the developing crisis by watching the video above - thank you to Brendan Bannon/UNHCR for the images and Brisbane outfit the 'Band of Frequencies' (Owen (OJ) Newcombe, Shannon Carroll and special guest Angie Iimura) for their version of the Bob Marley & The Wailers track 'High Tide Or Low Tide'.

National Director for Australia for UNHCR Naomi Steer says the response from the public has been "overwhelming".

"We'd like to thank ABC listeners for their incredible generosity and the way that people have responded immediately to our calls for help, they can feel confident that their funds will be going to provide much needed practical help to people right now living in Somalia and people in camps across the Horn of Africa," says Ms Steer.

Not knowing what to expect from the appeal, Naomi says the much needed funds will make a difference at the cold face.

"The funds will provide vital and very practical support to people in refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and also to people inside Somalia right now. The kind of support will be non food items supplies and will include tents for shelter, jerry cans for water, blankets and nutritional survival kits," says Ms Steer.

An extraordinary crisis, Naomi says every donation made will make a difference.

"In the refugee camps I know that my colleagues are still facing a tremendous uphill battle in providing the necessary resources to the numbers of people who are arriving daily. There is still a concern about the number of children who have trekked very long journeys from their homes in Somalia trying to reach safety, reach security, and get access to food. Reports are that people are still arriving in very poor condition, so we're hoping to turn that around with support from this appeal and other support across the world," says Naomi.

Donations can be made until Friday 19 August by calling 1300 440 433 .

'Scenario is very grim' in African aid camps

Ongoing conflict and the worst drought recorded in 60 years resulted in the UN declaring famine in parts of Somalia last month.

Hundreds of thousands of starving and malnourished refugees are seeking assistance in humanitarian aid camps, and an estimated 30,000 children have died in Somalia this year from malnutrition.

Camp Dadaab in Kenya, the world's largest refugee camp, is now home to 400,000 displaced people in need of food, clean water, shelter and medical help.

National Director of Australia for UNHCR Naomi Steer has seen the situation in Somalia first hand.

"With some estimates putting acute malnutrition rates as high as 50% in southern parts of the country, the scenario is very grim. Refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are overflowing with new arrivals desperately seeking relief assistance. With an estimated 3.7 million people affected by the drought - that's one in every two Somalis - the situation is very bad," says Ms Steer.

Measles 'turn deadly' in refugee camps

UNHCR spokesperson Milicent Mutuli is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"Some of the children are now affected by an outbreak of measles; there are cases in all the camps and community workers have reported deaths... we'll be starting a vaccination campaign in the Kobe camp for all children under 15 years... they're extremely weak, extremely vulnerable and in addition there is malnutrition, which makes measles that is not usually a killer illness certainly turn deadly," says Ms Mutuli.

While the numbers of new arrivals are declining, there are many Somalis already in camps in Ethiopia.

"There are still over a hundred thousand people in the camps in Dolo Ado in south-eastern Ethiopia. Nearly 80,000 of these people have come in this year alone," says Ms Mutuli.

Urging people to donate to the East Africa Appeal, Milicent says "any financial contribution will help".

"We can ensure children are kept healthy, we can run vaccination campaigns and we can do nutritional feeding for the severely malnourished children... any Australian dollar will be very welcome," says Milicent.

Family members 'left to die' to save others

Caritas Australia spokesperson Scott Martin explains the desperate situation.

"The television images tell it all and we've seen it all too often, emaciated children, families with no livelihood or assets, they're hungry, some have had no water and they're trekking long distances to find somewhere they can be fed and settle," says Mr Martin.

But he says the will to live is strong.

"The human survival instinct is very strong and once people make it to the refugee camps and they are settled, they can access minimal food rations and clean water ... life in a refugee camp isn't comfortable but it is survivable. But part of the journey is getting there, and we've heard very disturbing stories of families who've had to make difficult decisions, such as, leaving family members along the way to die in order to allow the rest of the family a chance to survive and to make it to one of the camps for assistance," says Mr Martin.

African communities in Australia 'devastated'

Meanwhile Australian East African communities have been 'deeply saddened' by the loss of life in their homeland.

Founding member of the African Communities Council of Queensland and recipient of the Pride of Australia Medal Saba Abraham was a political refugee and spent ten years in an East African refugee camp before coming to Australia in 1992.

"There are no words to describe how terrible it is to live in a camp, there is no food, no water, no medication and the worst is you don't have any hope, no hope at all.

"I don't think there could be worse in life, when a child is dying of starvation in its mother arms and the mother cannot do anything," says Ms Abraham.

Living comfortably in Australia, Saba says many East Africans living in Australia are watching on in horror as famine grips the region.

"I feel hopeless, it's very bad, because I can eat, sleep and drink water... I can get everything I need here but on the other hand I'm seeing African families suffer so much.

"I would like to ask any human being to try their best to help rescue the children... the only hope they have is from us, from people who live in peace, like in Australia," says Ms Abraham.

Donate to the East Africa Appeal

The ABC East African appeal will run until the 19 August.

You can help save lives by donating to Australia for UNHCR by calling 1300 440 433 or visit the East Africa Appeal or the UNHCR website - Spread the word and watch the donation tally rise on Twitter @ABCAppeal

Or make a donation at your preferred aid agency, or at one of the agencies listed below that are responding in East Africa.

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