South Africans called to help Somalia

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pretoria - Government and non-governmental aid organisations are calling on South Africans to help by donating whatever they can spare for Somalis in desperate need.

Briefing the media on Friday, International Relations Deputy Minister Marius Fransman said they will do everything to help elevate the situation in that country. He said South Africa will be providing financial and non-financial support, which will be in the range of R1 million and more.

"We are calling on South Africans to rally together to support the people of Somalia... Let's do it for the children, mothers and the elders who are dying of hunger."

Fransman said government has partnered with the public broadcaster, SABC, and other aid organisations to help the people in dire need. Details of how and where South Africans can donate will be announced next week.

The United Nations (UN) on Wednesday officially declared a famine in southern Somalia where millions of people are battling hunger in the midst of the region's worst drought in 60 years.

Nearly half of the Somali population - 3.7 million people - is now estimated to be in crisis, with an estimated 2.8 million of them in the south.

South African aid organization, Gift of the Givers, has started distributing high energy nutrition packages to the region.

Gift of the Givers' Imtiaz Sooliman has just left Somalia and says the situation there is dire. In an update on their website, Sooliman said what he saw there was extremely horrifying.

"Emaciated women, unable even to produce breast milk, malnourished two-year-olds looking no bigger than three-month-old infants, malaria patients lying helplessly on the floor, pneumonia and other diseases are common but the hunger is devastating," describes Sooliman.

He adds that there is paucity of food and water, non-existent medical facilities, no doctors, nurses or medical supplies.

Sooliman has appealed to South Africans to help by donating. "Africa should lead that response because these are our brothers and sisters," Sooliman said.

"We need to save lives and to put in high energy supplements, medicine, medical team and food. We need to put up tents. If people can provide cash, even if it is a small amount, this is Africa and these are our people. They need our assistance," he added.

On how to donate, people can call the Gift of the Givers' toll-free number on 0800786911.

The United Nations World Food Programme said it will start airlifts within days to get vital supplies into Somalia, which is bearing the brunt of the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, and is preparing to open up a number of new land and air routes to bring urgent relief to millions in need.

"There is a life and death situation here in Somalia," WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said while on a visit to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

"At one of our feeding sites in Mogadishu, where we are supplying food for hot meals, I met a woman who had lost children as they trekked out of the famine area in search of food," she added.

The agency is currently reaching 1.5 million people in Somalia, and is scaling up to reach an additional 2.2 million people in the previously inaccessible south of the country.

WFP welcomed the recent statement by the insurgent group Al-Shabaab, which controls areas of southern Somalia, that humanitarian aid will now be allowed into those parts of the country.

"We are testing the ground to see how we can best get life-saving supplies in as quickly as possible to those at the epicentre of the famine in the south," said Sheeran. "People in the south of Somalia are too ill and weak to go in search of food, so we must bring it to them."

The agency is getting ready to open up new land and air routes into the core of the famine zone - southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle - to establish the necessary operating conditions, including those that will secure the safety of humanitarian personnel.

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