Africa Pledges $351.7 Million for Famine Crisis At Ethiopian Conference

Africa pledged $351.7 million in cash to combat the worst drought in the Horn of African region for 60 years, which has led to a famine, said Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission.

Another $28 million was promised in kind, he told reporters at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, today.

Some 12.5 million people are in need of assistance, according to the United Nations, with Somalia the most severely affected. Aid agencies are largely barred from operating in areas in Somalia held by al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group al- Shabaab, which has been fighting the Western-backed government since 2007. More than 600,000 Somali refugees have already fled to over-burdened camps in neighboring states, Ping said.

The Addis Ababa conference marks the first “large scale” African effort to deal with a humanitarian crisis, he said.

The funding includes $300 million from the Tunis-based African Development Bank in loans and grants for the region through 2013, Country Director Lamin Barrow said in an interview. Algeria pledged $10 million and Angola offered $5 million.

Of a total of $2.5 billion needed to combat the crisis, the African Union said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that only $1.1 billion has been collected so far.

The international response has been “slow and tardy,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. A quicker effort to deal with a crisis that was predicted “almost a year ago” could have been made, said Irungu Houghton, Oxfam Pan-Africa Director, in an interview.

“People have to die, people have to be seen with extending and protruding bellies,” he said. “We have to see misery in order for some of our political leaders to take responsibility.”

To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa at wdavison3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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