The chief executives of 10 major New Zealand aid agencies say the massive humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa threatens to overwhelm aid efforts. They are appealing to New Zealanders to help avert a catastrophe.
The New Zealand Government's contribution of $3 million towards the crisis was welcomed by aid agencies today, with $1 million of the total to be spent through aid partners of non-government agencies in East Africa. New Zealand non-government aid agencies have contributed $500,000 to the aid effort from public appeals and their emergency funds.
The Director of the Council for International Development (CID) Dr Wren Green says: "This is a terrific result so far with a sizeable government contribution and the rapid positive response from the public. We welcome the $1 million that is available for NGOs to spend on specially targeted assistance projects. The public response is still growing as well.
"New Zealanders have demonstrated again their immense generosity and compassion for others in need. However the sheer scale of the crisis means that we have to dig deeper to prevent a repeat of the extreme starvation we witnessed in 1984."
The UN estimates that the prolonged drought in East Africa has left up to 10 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, ncluding at least half a million young children who are severely malnourished.
Dr Green says that the challenge is reaching the vast numbers of people who need support and ensuring the aid lasts long enough. Those most severely affected are young children, the disabled, pregnant women and the elderly. Malnutrition and mortality rates for these groups have risen dramatically across the whole Horn of Africa. The immediate needs are food, water, sanitation and immunisations to combat disease.
"Humanitarian aid will be required for at least the next three months until the expected October rains. We have no guarantee these rains will come, which highlights the vulnerability of people in this region. Regrettably, extreme weather events, including droughts, will become more frequent as a result of climate change," says Dr Green.
"International NGOs have been working to build communities' resilience to drought, but people will need more investment over the long term to achieve the level of self sufficiency that will enable them to cope with the conditions that they are experiencing now."
Doubling of grain prices, massive livestock deaths, and conflict have combined to worsen the impact of the driest year since 1950/51 and created severe food shortages in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.
Dr Green says that non-government organisations are all working together on the ground with UN agencies to coordinate the relief effort and ensure that emergency supplies from New Zealand reach those who need them most.
The New Zealand humanitarian agencies responding in East Africa are: Adra, Caritas, CBM, ChildFund New Zealand, Christian World Service, Oxfam New Zealand, Save the Children, TEAR Fund, UNICEF NZ (UN Children's Fund), and World Vision.
People are asked to donate by contacting one of the aid agencies listed above or visit www.ndrf.org.nz for a full list of their contact