Thursday, August 18, 2011

OIC pledges US$350m to fight #hunger in Somalia

ISTANBUL, Aug 18: Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries have pledged $350 million in aid to fight famine in Somalia at an emergency summit in İstanbul, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin İhsanoglu said on Wednesday.
Tens of thousands of Somalian children are starving
With some 3.7 million Somalis at risk of starvation in the Horn of Africa country, Ihsanoglu said he hoped the aid would soon reach $500 million and urged donors to improve drought-stricken Somalia's long-term food security by helping it rebuild infrastructure and agriculture.  

"All in all we have secured $350 million in pledges. We hope to raise the commitments to $500 million in a very short time," he told a news conference after the summit, held in Turkey's commercial capital during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  

In New York, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who just returned from Somalia and Kenya, thanked donors who have already contributed a total of $1.3 billion but said the UN needs nearly double that amount.

"We need to get more food and nutritional supplies, water, sanitation and hygiene equipment and medical care to those who are in desperate need," she said.

"We're faced with a still spreading famine in Somalia and with such a scale of suffering that every effort needs to be made and sustained in the months ahead," Amos said. "That's why we are still appealing for an additional $1.2 billion. There are still many lives that need to be saved in the Horn of Africa."

Participants in the Islamic Conference's emergency meeting to discuss assistance to Somalia agreed to form a "food security mechanism" that would aim to prevent a similar crisis in the future, said the group's term chairman, Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Khazykhanov.

Turkey has collected about $110 million in public donations for Somalia so far and has flown in several tons of food and medical aid. İhsanoglu said Wednesday that Turkey had pledged $150 million to the organization's fund.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said during the press conference that the participants have established “Somalia Task Force,” composed of Kazakhstan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and OIC Secretariat.

He said the task force will also at the same time provide coordination of all activities regarding Somalia.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appealed for aid for Somalia, criticising millionaires who drive luxury cars and the "Western world's" arrogance for ignoring the plight of the poor.  

In a speech sprinkled with references to Islamic piety and criticism of Western capitalism, Erdoğan said the Somali famine was "a litmus test" not only for Muslims but for all humanity.  

"If you ride a luxury car you should be generous enough to people who are struggling with hunger," he told foreign ministers from the 57-nation OIC at an emergency summit in İstanbul to galvanise support for Somalia and neighbouring regions also hit by drought.  
"I hope the efforts (of the OIC) will mobilise the sleeping consciences. We hope the Western world, which likes to boast about its per capita income, shows its support for Somalia."  

The OIC recently changed its name from Organisation of the Islamic Conference to Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.  

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said his country was unable to raise enough food and cattle, and faced militant attacks. The worst-hit areas are controlled by al Shabaab militants, who have prevented aid from getting to people.   

The rebels, who have waged a four-year insurgency against Somalia's Western-backed government, withdrew from Mogadishu earlier this month, opening the way for life-saving food aid but also raising the risk of insurgency attacks.

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