Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Unicef: Horn of Africa Disaster Appeal

I've received the following email from Paddy Ashdown (President of Unicef and former Liberal Democrat Leader);

"As I write this, there is a crisis in the Horn of Africa that is claiming the lives of thousands of children. Famine has been declared. Millions face starvation. In Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia we are witnessing the worst humanitarian catastrophe in a generation.

It is a crisis that has unfolded slowly, so much so that the media has found little drama to force it to top of news bulletins - which have instead been dominated by the phone hacking scandal. But a starving child is a starving child whether a camera is pointed at them or not. There are an estimated 10 million people in desperate need of emergency relief and we must not ignore them.

Unicef, the UN’s children’s agency of which I am the UK president, has called this crisis a “children’s famine”. In those most severely affected regions of Somalia – Bakool and Lower Shabelle – acute malnutrition due to poor diets or inadequate food is now exceeding 50% and the daily death rate for children is peaking at 13-20 per 10,000 children. That's more than 250 children or one child every six minutes. Unless we can have a swift intervention the forecast is that drought will spread to the other five regions in the south between August and December.

We should all be proud that the British government is leading the way, already providing more than £90m of aid to the region, giving emergency assistance to more than 2m people. This means, for example, treatment for starving children and access to clean drinking water. But this is not enough, not by a long shot.

As a government, the Coalition will, I am sure, continue to press our international partners to join us in taking urgent action. As individuals, we can help by contributing to the Unicef East Africa Children’s Crisis Appeal. The British people have been incredibly generous, but we can and must do more. I urge you to give all you can.

As President of UNICEF, I naturally hope you will donate to their appeal - but whatever means to choose to make a contribution, I urge you to do so as soon as you feel able to. This help is needed NOW.

To donate £10 text word FAMINE to 70099; to donate more go to Unicef UK or telephone 0800 316 5353 or visit one of the other donation sites which are available, such as the DEC Appeal.

Thank you.

Paddy Ashdown

President of Unicef UK
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats