Posted on February 8, 2012

Africa Has Handed over £2.75 Million of £200 Million Famine Relief Five Months on

Mike Pflanz, Telegraph (London), January 30, 2012

Presidents, prime ministers and senior government officials pledged the funds in August in a delayed response to the hunger crisis that threatened more than 12 million Kenyans, Somalis and Ethiopians with starvation.

At the time, Jerry Rawlings, Ghana’s former president and the continental envoy to famine-hit Somalia, said: “We need to send a convincing response to the rest of the world that we’re not incapable of supporting our own when the need arises”.

Yet almost half a year later, figures confirmed by the United Nations and seen by The Daily Telegraph show that just five of the continent’s 54 nations have so far honoured their promises.

Gabon, Mauritania, Mauritius, Rwanda and South Africa have together paid £2.75 million.

The balance of more than £224 million, in cash and “in kind” from a further 17 countries and the African Development Bank, has so far failed to materialise.

Among those who are delaying are some of Africa’s economic powerhouses, including oil-rich Nigeria, Angola and Ghana who together pledged almost £5 million which has yet to appear.

“It’s a matter of great concern, and a great lapse on the part of our leaders,” said Anne Mitaru, coordinator of Africans Act 4 Africa, a grassroots campaign formed during the famine that fights for a greater engagement from Africa’s governments to the continent’s food crises.

“I don’t want to say that African leaders don’t care, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“But in so far not honouring their pledges, we don’t get a good indication that they have an urgent commitment to respond to a situation where millions of African people face extreme hunger.”

The continent’s leaders faced criticism as they stood by while the rest of the world rallied to the UN’s £1.5 billion Horn of Africa appeal.

Even when they did finally gather for Africa’s first famine fund-raising conference they guaranteed only to give £32 million — less than the British public had given to the crisis at that point.

Noureddine al-Mesni, spokesman for the African Union Commission, which is in charge of collecting the money and sending it on to the UN, said on Monday that “there is nothing to worry about”.

“This is normal, it happens to every organisation,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“You get the pledges then you have to follow up. There are mechanisms to do that. But do not worry, the commitments are there, and we hope that we will get this money, it is a very noble cause.”

Aid agencies, however, warned last week that delays to funding last year’s drought appeals cost tens of thousands of lives and turned a food crisis into a famine.

The bulk of the funds promised in August was £192 million to be spent by the African Development Bank between 2011 and 2015 on schemes to beat future droughts.

Abdirahman Beileh, the bank’s agriculture director, said those funds had “already begun being spent” but said that they were never intended simply to fund emergency appeals.