Monday, July 25, 2011

Canada pledges $50M for East Africa

A malnourished mother and child find relief on Friday in a hospital in the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

A malnourished mother and child find relief on Friday in a hospital in the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

Photograph by: Oli Scarff, Getty Images, Postmedia News

Canada will immediately kick in $50 million for organizations responding to the humanitarian crisis in East Africa and will create a fund designed to match individual charitable donations dollar-for-dollar, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced Friday.
But while Somali refugees at camps in Kenya can access this aid, distribution of aid inside Somalia is being hampered by the hard-line Islamist al-Shabaab militia, which is blocking relief supplies from entering to the country.
Oda spoke to Canadian media from Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya Friday. Home to more than 300,000, Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world, and is growing by 15,000 people per week as drought-stricken masses pour across the border from Somalia.
"The stories I heard are heartbreaking," she said. "I truly believe you cannot witness this kind of suffering without responding."
Oda said she met a young pregnant mother of three who was taken hostage in Somalia, and was released by her captors only as she went into labour. After giving birth alone by the side of the road, she and her children walked for three days, arriving at Dadaab on Friday.
Oda also spoke of a girl of 14, who marched her two younger brothers across the parched lands for 15 days to reach the relative security of the camps. "The determination that drove them to survive and get to the camp is unbelievable," Oda said. "They deserve our support, and they deserve our help."
Friday's $50-million donation is in addition to the $22 million the federal government has already provided to the Horn of Africa.
The funds will be distributed through partner agencies such as the UN World Food Programme for emergency food assistance, as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for emergency needs related to such things as nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and medical services.
The Canadian government will also create the East Africa Drought Relief Fund to match donations made by Canadians to registered charities responding to the crisis during a 10-week period, retroactive to July 6 and running to Sept. 16, to ensure the money can be disbursed in a timely fashion. The relief fund will be administered separately and funds will be distributed to organizations best placed to meet the most pressing needs.
The aid announcement comes some two weeks after humanitarian groups began calling on the government to cough up support for the nearly 10 million people - many of them children - in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti who are facing a food crisis as a result of the region's worst drought in 60 years. Oda said the largest hindrance to regional humanitarian relief is al-Shabaab, the conservative Islamist militia that controls southeastern Somalia. Al-Shabaab has banned all international humanitarian aid organizations from areas under its control, putting the population in these areas in dire straits.
Earlier this week, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of Somalia. The Humanitarian Coalition, a group composed of Care Canada, Oxfam, Plan Canada and Save the Children, has been calling for "immediate action" to "prevent loss of life on a massive scale" as 50,000 people have flooded into refugee camps over the past five months.

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