[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): AU famine meet raises $351m, figure questioned

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Aug 25 2011 - 17:07:36 EDT

AU famine meet raises $351m, figure questioned

Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:34pm GMT

* Summit raises $351 mln

* Four heads of state show up

* Aid groups say need another $1bln to stop deaths (Recasts with final
contributions tally)

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - A much-delayed African Union summit held to
raise money to tackle famine in Somalia and drought in the Horn of Africa
held on Thursday raised $351 million officials said, but activists
questioned the figure.

Out of the $351 million announced by Jean Ping, chairman of the AU
commission, $300 million came from the African Development Bank, to be spent
over a four-year period, not to be used to bridge a $1.4 billion shortfall
aid groups say they need for the emergency.

About 12 million people need emergency food across the "triangle of death"
region, straddling Somalia - where famine was declared in five regions -
Kenya and Ethiopia.

"This is what we pledged today," said Ping. "It is new money and it is
exclusively African."

Of the remaining $51 million announced, many of the donations appear to have
been announced before and donations came from less than half of the AU's 54

"We counted about $46 million in cash pledges," Irungu Houghton, pan Africa
policy director for aid group Oxfam, told Reuters.

"Just 21 countries made pledges out of 54 and, of the $46 million, $20
million came from three states - Algeria, Angola, and Egypt."

Activists singled out Africa's economic powerhouses Nigeria and South Africa
for criticism after Nigeria pledged just $2 million and South Africa's
figure of $10 million was questioned.

"In the case of South Africa, they actually seem to have contributed about
$1 million dollars if you actually strip it to cash value, Houghton said


African activists and political commentators took to social media to lambast
the fact that only four heads of state -- from Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti
and Equatorial Guinea -- attended the summit.

Jerry Rawlings, former president of Ghana and now AU representative for
Somalia, told Reuters he had "expected better".

Many aid experts, analysts and diplomats had said they expected little from
an organisation that has often been perceived as toothless and has seen its
funding battered by the absence of its main financier, Libya's Muammar

Speakers, including Ping, acknowledged the criticisms but said they needed
time to prepare and that they had already donated money.

Kenya and Ethiopia won praise at the summit from leaders and activists for
dealing with an influx of Somali refugees fleeing a prolonged conflict that
aid experts say has worsened the impact of a bad drought and led to famine.

Analysts say African governments' repeated pleas of poverty when asked for
donations, rings hollow with several economies now oil-rich and others
seeing double-digit growth over the past five years.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said the situation in the refugee
camps was dire and that Somalis need to be given aid in their own country
despite most of the regions affected being under the control of the Islamist
al Shabaab rebel group.

Meles said Ethiopia would buy 300,000 tons of wheat to replenish its food

Some ordinary Africans, frustrated by their governments' reaction to the
crisis, have stepped in and set up impromptu fundraising groups across the

One of those, Africans Act 4 Africa, had urged countries to donate a
"proportional" share based on their economies, saying a $50 million pledge
was the least that should be given but that $100 million would have shown a
serious commitment.

"It's an important step in the right direction," European Union commission
for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva, told Reuters.

"Africa is now taking on the problems it faces. This is the first such
summit held by a young organization with little humanitarian experience and
a small but dedicated team. It will improve in the future." (Editing by
Duncan Miriri and Matthew Jones)

C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved


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