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Canadian government offers to match charities' aid to east Africa

(Xinhua)

08:58, August 18, 2011

OTTAWA, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Canadian government announced Wednesday it will match the amount of money donated to charities giving aid to drought-ravaged east Africa in the next 30 days.

Canadians have already donated 20 million Canadian dollars to major Canadian charities operating in the famine-stricken region. The government will match all donations made between July 6 and Sept. 16 in a pledge similar to that after the recent destructive earthquake in Haiti.

Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda pleaded with Canadians Tuesday to help people who have been displaced in the Horn of Africa by drought and crop failure. The region has already seen years of lawlessness and civil war.

"Canada is deeply concerned by the growing impact of the drought and famine," Oda said Wednesday."As I saw on my recent visit to the region, the international community is working to meet the challenges of severe hunger and malnutrition and rapidly growing numbers of refugees. Canada will support those humanitarian efforts delivering aid directly to those most in need and commends all those who are working on this very important and life-saving mission."

"I encourage all Canadians to remember their commitment, as well as the courage and tenacity of those who are facing the horror of starvation and extreme malnutrition, when donating to the relief effort," she said.

Canadian aid agencies praised the government's aid pledge, saying Canadian donations have been slow. They blame donor fatigue and concern that aid groups may not be able to get food to the people who need it.

The United Nations says it has only raised 1.1 billion of the 2. 4 billion U.S. dollars requested from donor countries for famine relief. So far this year, the United States has committed the most money -- about 580 million U.S. dollars -- and Britain is the second-biggest donor at 205 million U.S. dollars.

Aid groups say they are directing their help at women and children.

Care Canada's Kevin McCort says more than 50 percent of the arrivals at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya are younger than 11. Tens of thousands of Somalis have fled to the camp that was already home to 300,000 people.

"It is an unfortunate reality that when disasters and emergencies strike, it is the vulnerable who are most affected," he said.

The new commitment should raise Canadian aid in the region to at least 125 million Canadian dollars.

The money will be directed at about 12 million people in East Africa affected by the worst drought and famine in more than a generation. Foreign agencies have had difficulty getting aid to the worst-hit areas because of the hostility of local Islamic militant groups.

The crisis began in Somalia, where about half of the country's 3.2 million people need food aid. The famine has spread to Ethiopia. The government of that country estimates 250,000 need food aid, but some aid groups say the number may be three times as high. Kenya, which is being flooded with refugees, is trying to feed 300,000 people who have come into that country.

"Canadian and other international commitments will only deliver results in the lives of those affected by the drought and famine if our commitments can get to those who need help," said Oda's parliamentary secretary, Lois Brown.

The Canadian government is working with experienced partners in the region to ensure Canadian aid delivers results. These organizations provide emergency assistance, including addressing acute malnutrition among young children, and pregnant and lactating women.

Canada's support will help to provide access to food, safe drinking water, proper sanitation and hygiene, as well as emergency health care, including disease control. (1 U.S. dollar equals 0.9818 Canadian dollars)

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