Monday, January 23, 2012

Famine :- Celebrity singers help United Nations slow famine in Horn of Africa | Women News Network

Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia.

Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. Fleeing drought and famine in their home country, thousands of Somalis have taken up residence across the border in Dollo Ado, where a complex of camps is assisted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) August 2011. Image: Eskinder Debebe/UNPhoto

(WNN) NEW YORK: As the effects of drought continue to wreck havoc in the Horn of Africa for 13.3 million people who have faced changed lives in the worst climate the region has experienced in decades leaving 250,000 displaced Somalis in urgent need of famine crisis assistance, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working to encourage greater food security for women, children and families who would otherwise go with little access to adequate food.

Efforts to bring adequate food, stability, a sense of home and proper health care to the region have faced many challenges. As roaming militias in southern Somalia have created interceptions of food aid and relief supplies, international agencies, like those working closely on-the-ground with the UNDP, have continued to push through.

To help raise donations for international efforts to reach more people who are suffering in the Horn of Africa, celebrity a cappella singing group ‘The Dartmouth Aries’ of Dartmouth College has released a new song that speaks directly to the needs with the deadly ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa.

“We at UNDP are deeply grateful to the Aires for using their musical gifts and their celebrity to help raise awareness of the plight of people in the Horn of Africa,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. ”Drought is not avoidable, but famine is. It arises from conditions which the international community can help address. UNDP is working hard to build resilience, restore livelihoods, and support communities moving to a sustainable path. Public awareness of and support for this work is essential.”

On Jan. 7, before a sold-out concert at Lincoln Center, the award-winning all-male 17 member undergraduate singing ensemble visited United Nations headquarters to record “Calling My Children Home,” along with a message on behalf of UNDP. The song, which draws on traditional ballads, evokes a close-knit clan scattered to distant regions, much as the ongoing famine has forced starving families to leave their villages and walk, often for weeks, in search of food.

“Calling My Children Home” was originally written and released by song writers and musicians Doyle Lawson, Charles Waller and Robert Yates in 1977. It was later made popular by celebrity signers Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt in the 1987 album they worked on together called “Trio.”

The Dartmouth Aires a cappella group began performing as a university sponsored singing ensemble in 1946 but today’s modern version of the singers didn’t achieve international celebrity until 2011 when they secured a spot as finalists in the NBC network television show “The Sing-Off.” As one of five university groups and the only Ivy League musicians competing, they placed second and now have a global following. They also performed with invitation by the U.S. White House in December 2011.

“We wanted to give something back,” Dartmouth Aires business manager Ethan Weinberg said. “We have a larger following now, and we wanted to use our reach for a good cause.”

Countries in the Horn of Africa that have been facing severe drought are now also facing the worst food crisis in 20 years. UNDP has been working with communities in the region as an essential part of the response, addressing underlying factors of livelihoods and governance. Many children have been disproportionally impacted by the crisis in the region which has caused what the UNDP describes are “shocking mortality levels.”

To date 800,000 people in the Horn of Africa region have become refugees as 1.46 million are now facing life as an IDP – Internally Displaced Person. “Support to the most vulnerable,” is the goal of the UNDP as well as gender empowerment in programs that place emphasis on key influences women play in the region with their connection on-the-ground to food security.

Last month, the United Nations appealed for USD 1.5 billion to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people in Somalia during 2012.


The efforts to bring food to regions impacted by severe famine in the Horn of Africa is an uphill climb as international humanitarian communities work together with the UNDP to bring greater food security to the region. See this December 2011 update on the region from the UNDP.

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