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HORN OF AFRICA: Thinking outside the traditional funding box

NAIROBI, 1 September 2011 (IRIN) - The race to feed more than 12 million people facing severe food shortages in the Horn of Africa has seen humanitarian agencies make several funding appeals. Donor governments have contributed more than US$1.46 billion out of the required $2.48 billion.

So far, so traditional. What has not been counted has been the response of ordinary people in the region to the disaster unfolding on their TV screens. Here is a round-up of some initiatives that have tapped into popular philanthropy.

Kenyans for Kenya - One of Kenya's most successful funding drives ever, the campaign aimed to raise 500 million shillings - about US$5.28 million - in one month; that target was reached in 10 days. The initiative then aimed for one billion shillings - $10.56 million - and by 1 September, had collected more than $7 million. The money has been used to send tonnes of food to crisis-affected areas through the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS).

Corporate sponsors have been conspicuous givers, but private citizens contributed more than $1.6 million using MPESA, a mobile phone money transfer service run by telecoms firm Safaricom.

FeedKE - A separate campaign started by a Kenyan Twitter user, Ahmed Salim, gained some popularity among internet users. Using the Twitter hashtag #FeedKE, the campaign also used mobile money transfers to raise more than $15,000, which was also channelled through KRCS.

Telethons - A three-day telethon organized by the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Authority in August raised more than $17 million. The Red Crescent has also collected more than 400 tonnes of food for the drought and set up clinics in Somalia.

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Another telethon, organized by the South African NGO, Gift of the Givers, and the South African Broadcasting Corporation, raised more than $170,000. This was just a fraction of the nearly $3 million that Gift of the Givers says has been raised by South Africans.

The diaspora - Millions of people from the Horn of Africa live abroad and regularly spend a portion of their earnings sending remittances to their families; Ethiopians and Somalis living abroad send more than $1 billion home annually. According to media reports, remittances from the Somali diaspora to the worst-hit areas in the south of the country are up by 10 percent.

The US Agency for International Development says several Somali NGOs in Minneapolis have joined forces with the American Refugee Committee in an initiative called Neighbours for Nations that unites and mobilizes diaspora community efforts to provide relief and development services in Somalia.

Celebrity buzz - From Bono to Beyoncé, celebrities have thrown their weight behind the campaign to feed millions in the region. Bob Marley's family released a new video for the legend's song, High Tide or Low Tide, to help raise awareness and money for the drought in East Africa as part of the 'I'm gonna be your friend' campaign in conjunction with Save the Children.

Jay Z and Kanye West courted controversy when they destroyed a $350,000 Maybach Mercedes for the video of their track, Otis, but the two artists say the vehicle will be auctioned and the proceeds used to assist the drought response.

In August, Canada-based Somali musician K'Naan - whose hit, Waving Flag, was the World Cup 2010 anthem - visited his homeland for the first time in decades to raise awareness about the food crisis.

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Theme (s): Aid Policy, East African Food Crisis, Economy, Food Security, Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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