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OIC members vow to donate $350 million to Somalia
by Staff Writers
Istanbul (AFP) Aug 17, 2011

AU chair calls for generosity at donor meeting on drought
Luanda (AFP) Aug 17, 2011 - The chair of the African Union Commission called Wednesday for countries to show their generosity at a donor conference next week to raise money to fight the famine gripping the Horn of Africa.

Jean Ping called on AU member states in particular to give as much as possible to help Somalia and other drought-hit countries.

He said Africa ran the risk of famine spreading across the Sahel, the broad swathe of semi-arid land stretching across the continent south of the Sahara.

"We need to participate (in the fundraising effort) to show the rest of the world that we are also capable of resolving African problems with African solutions," he said at the opening ceremony of a summit of southern African leaders in Angola.

The August 25 donor conference in Addis Ababa will call for funds to help the estimated 12 million people in danger of starvation in the Horn of Africa.

Ping said the AU had dispatched former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings on a tour of African capitals to lobby for donations, noting that Algeria had already promised $10 million.

He said the meeting was urgent given that "the countries of the Sahel will rapidly be affected by famine" as well.

"Even AU member countries classified as poor should make their contribution, in cash or in kind, even if symbolic," he added.

He also made a special appeal to the "BRICS" group of emerging economies -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- to make significant donations.

He called the conference the first AU effort of its kind, and said it needed to set a precedent.

"If this conference is not a success, it will be difficult for us to organise a similar one," he said.

The AU has come in for criticism for postponing the conference from August 9.

Imtiaz Sooliman, chairman of South African aid group Gift of the Givers Foundation, said last week the AU had been "very slow" in responding to the crisis.

"If Africa doesn't care about Africa, how do you expect other countries and other continents to care about this continent?" he said.

Members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, at an emergency meeting in Istanbul Wednesday, vowed to donate 350 million dollars for famine relief in Somalia.

"We said we aimed (to collect) 500 million. We are committed 350 million today," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish general secretary of the OIC, told a press conference following the talks.

The promised amount includes 150 million dollars that Turkey has already collected for Somalia, Ihsanoglu said.

Other donations came from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Gabon, Iran, Kazakhistan, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Sudan, according to the meeting's unofficial final declaration.

The United Nations has declared that one billion dollars is needed for Somalia, but the international community only pledged half this amount, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his opening remarks.

Representatives from some 40 of the 57 OIC member countries convened in Istanbul to discuss how to boost aid to Somalia.

All vowed to contribute through the Somalian fund that was founded under the OIC secretariat, said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Kazakhistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and the OIC constituted a special group dedicated to follow the situation in Somalia and coordinate the aid campaigns, he added.

"We decided to have aid campaigns in all Islamic countries," Davutoglu said.

The Islamic world would "actively take part" in finding a solution for the domestic tensions in Somalia, he added.

Turkey is going to reopen its embassy in Mogadishu that it closed in 1991 due to security reasons, Davutoglu said.

Kazakhistan, the term chair of the OIC, also offered to establish a food security mechanism to prevent future famines in the Horn of Africa, Kazakhistan's Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov said.

"The OIC secretariat will open bank accounts in different countries for individual donations to Somalia," Kazykhanov said.

Turkey, which had called on the OIC to hold an emergency meeting, has sent a cargo plane carrying a field hospital and 30 tonnes of aid to the drought-hit country.

"There is a fire in Somalia and what's urgent is to extinguish that fire," Erdogan said, inviting Muslim countries as well as strong economies throughout the world to extend a helping hand to the people of Somalia.

President Abdullah Gul met his Somali counterpart Sharif Ahmed on the sidelines of the OIC meeting.

Erdogan is due to leave for the Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday evening, with his wife and daughter, as well as Davutoglu and three other cabinet members and deputies from his ruling party, who will also be accompanied by their families.

On Friday they will oversee the distribution of Turkish aid in refugee camps.

Previously Turkey sent three planes carrying dozens of tonnes of food and medical supplies for Somalis during Ramadan.

Turkish television channels have been screening footage of the catastrophe unfolding in Africa to help drum up aid.

Since the arrival in power of Erdoban's Justice and Development Party, a moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, Turkey has taken an increasing interest in Africa.

Ankara has been playing the role of regional leader and opened several embassies across the continent with the aim of finding new markets for products from the world's 17th biggest economy.

As a result of these initiatives, Turkey, Islam's main representative within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, also secured a seat as non-permanent member on the United Nations Security Council in 2009-2010.

Turkey is angling to repeat the feat in 2015-2016.

Somalia is the country hardest hit by the drought that has affected people around the Horn of Africa region.

UN officials have said some 12 million people are in danger of starvation.

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Somali famine needs urgent response: Britain
Nairobi (AFP) Aug 17, 2011 - The death toll in famine-hit Somalia will escalate unless urgent action is taken, the first British minister to visit war-torn Mogadishu in over 18 years said on Wednesday.

"The stark fact is that in southern Somalia the situation is deteriorating by the day," Andrew Mitchell, Britain's international development secretary, said in Nairobi following a visit to Mogadishu.

Up to 400,000 children are at risk of death through starvation if urgent action is not taken now, he added, announcing a $41 million (29 million euro) funding boost.

Without an "urgent response" the crisis could become as bad as Somalia's 1991-2 famine, when over 200,000 people lost their lives, warned Mitchell, who visited feeding centres and camps for those fleeing extreme drought.

"This is a race against time," he warned.

Britain's funding boost -- to be channelled through the UN children's agency -- includes two months supplementary rations for up to 192,000 people, and measles vaccinations for at least 800,000 children.

It will also provide $4 million for agricultural projects, including the vaccination of livestock.

Over 12 million people in parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda are in danger of starvation in the wake of the region's worst drought in decades.

War-wracked Somalia is the country hardest hit by the Horn of Africa drought, with five areas declared to be experiencing famine, much of those under the control of the Islamist Shebab militia.

"Evidence of malnutrition is not just in the camps and feeding centres but on every street corner," Mitchell said.

"We risk seeing a whole generation of people decimated by starvation and disease, and further instability across the region," he added.

Mitchell explained that the recent Shebab withdrawal from the capital Mogadishu had not allowed the widening of aid delivery to the areas abandoned by the rebels.

"It is clear that with the Shebab withdrawing, there is an opportunity for the transitional government to first of all stabilise its position in Mogadishu," he told reporters in Nairobi.

"The withdrawal of the Shebab does not make it necessarily easier for humanitarian and relief agencies. It is difficult for them to operate in ungoverned space."

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OIC meets on Somalia in Istanbul
Istanbul (AFP) Aug 17, 2011
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was to hold an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Istanbul on Wednesday on the drought and famine ravaging the Horn of Africa. The organisation, which groups 57 Muslim countries and is currently chaired by a Turk, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, will discuss how to boost aid to the countries worst affected. The meeting was requested by Turkey, which h ... read more

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