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More aid needed

July 22, 2011

As the German government considers extra aid for drought and famine stricken countries on the Horn of Africa, an aid group has said Germany has a track record of giving less to Africa than to other continents.

A woman holding an empty bowl
The UN says $1.6 billion are needed to feed people on the Horn of AfricaImage: picture-alliance/dpa

It's not easy getting donations for Africa - that's the line from Germany's umbrella organisation for aid agencies, Aktion Deutschland Hilft (ADH).

The ADH says donations for the victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010 amounted to more than 7 million euros ($10 million) within a few days, whereas so far donations for Somalia total only 1.5 million euros.

It comes down to two factors - coverage in the media and the type of catastrophe.

"Our analysis shows that the level of donations is always directly linked to media reports [about catastrophes] and the public awareness that those reports create," the ADH's Maria Rüther told the dapd news agency.

Rüther said Germans see more reports and pictures of a 'corrupt continent' and economic mismanagement than pictures of starving people.

Then there is the type of catastrophe. A drought and famine move slower than sudden natural disasters, leaving less of an impression on the public.

‘People donate significantly more after sudden events, such as earthquakes [as in Haiti], hurricanes, and tsunamis,' Rüther told dapd.

But the aid agency CARE, which is a member of the ADH umbrella group, takes a different view.

Anton Markmiller of CARE's Germany-Luxemburg branch said private donations for Somalia currently total more than 107,000 euros.

"That's similar to donations after Haiti or the Pakistan floods of 2010," said Markmiller.

EU aid chief arrives

The German development ministry had earlier said the federal government would consider sending more money to help Somalia deal with the famine.

People building a makeshift shelter near the Dadaab refugee camp
People are living in makeshift shelters in and around the Dadaab campImage: dapd

Berlin has already pledged 14 million euros in aid.

Now, the European Union is assessing what it can do as a bloc to help alleviate the situation.

Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union commissioner for humanitarian aid, is in Kenya to visit the Dadaab refugee camp in the north, where people from Somalia and Ethiopia are trying to get help.

The EU has pledged 5.7 million euros for the camp, but it may increase its help 'substantially', according to Commission spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic.

Figures from the UN's refugee agency suggest that 1,300 Somalis arrive daily at the camp. It was originally built for 90,000 people, but its population stands at 440,000.

Still blocking aid

A picture of food stocks on the Horn of Africa
Rebels may slow the distribution of food to refugeesImage: picture alliance/dpa

The number of people arriving at the Dadaab camp has not been slowed by calls from local rebel groups, who have urged Somalis to 'wait for rain rather than go to foreign-run refugee camps.'

Last year, a group calling itself al-Shabaab imposed a ban on food aid and stopped organisations like the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) from working in areas that it controls.

Earlier this month, al-Shabaab said it would lift the ban on foreign aid groups. But the group appeared to renege on the announcement on Friday, saying it would ‘expel any agency that causes problems for Muslim society'.

The WFP's David Orr said they would go ahead with plans to return to Somalia, but added "it will be risky."

Author: Zulfikar Abbany, Gabriel Borrud (AFP, Reuters, dpad)

Editor: Susan Houlton