Published On: Sat, Aug 13th, 2011

Unicef use the force of Ewan McGregor to bolster east Africa drought appeal

LONDONUnicef, the UN agency for children, has enlisted Ewan McGregor – the actor best known for his roles in Trainspotting and the Star Wars prequels – in a campaign to raise money for the drought and famine that has affected 12 million people in east Africa.

McGregor, an ambassador for Unicef UK, will appear on cinema screens urging audiences to contribute £5 via text message donations before turning their phones off. Cinema chains Odeon, Vue and Picturehouse are partnering Unicef in the appeal. The clip will also be broadcast online and on television.

Abdirashid Duale - CEO of Dahabshiil

The clip shows McGregor saying: “Before the film starts, I’d really like your help. Before you switch it off, it would be great if you could take out your phone. Right now, 250 children are dying in Somaliaevery day. That’s one little girl or boy dead every six minutes. This is a famine. And children are dying. They desperately need life-saving food and water. And they need it now. It’s simple: they’re hungry, we can help. It’s time to share.”

McGregor is joining efforts to raise money for east Africa, which has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years. The situation in Somalia is particularly precarious. It has suffered from conflict for decades and Islamist insurgents al-Shabaab have refused access to most western aid agencies, including the UN’s World Food Programme.

Several musicians from across Africa have appeared on a YouTube video calling on governments and Africans to “act for Africa” in response to the crisis that has affected Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya as well as parts of South Sudan, Eritrea and Uganda. Some of Kenya’s leading singers and TV stars, including Nameless, The Villagers, Sara Mitaru and Juliani appear on the video.

Even a spoof Liz Jones in Somalia Twitter page, poking fun at the Daily Mail columnist, has managed to raise £27,000.

Some businesses, including British Airways, National Bank of Kuwait and Eli Lilly, have donated money. Dahabshiil, headquartered in Whitechapel, east London, has given $100,000 (£61,477) to victims of the drought and has urged other international businesses to follow suit.

The company’s chief executive, Abdirashid Duale, says Dahabshiil, which handles remittances, has seen a 10% rise in money sent to east Africa since a crisis was declared last month, although he declines to give detailed figures. For the Somali diaspora alone, Dahabshiil remits a large proportion of an estimated $1.6bn sent every year.

Duale says the Somali community in the UK has been mobilising to raise money.

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“They come to our office wanting to donate in any way they can, they are organising in cafes, mosques and in the community,” said Duale. “The events in London have affected everybody and maybe overshadowed the crisis in east Africa but every Friday people come together for prayers and I’m sure today they will gather in mosques and donate what they can.”

Duale says there has been a good response from aid agencies, religious leaders, the general public and all Somalis, but it is the business community that can make a real difference now.

“We, as kith and kin Somalis, with the same culture and the same religion, urge the international business community to dig deep and provide the final push the people of east Africa need, especially during this holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

So far the British public has given nearly £50m towards the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, which groups several British charities.

“At a time when the UK’s reputation is in the global spotlight for the wrong reasons, the British people can be rightly proud that they are world leaders in responding to acute need,” said Brendan Gormley, the DEC’s chief executive. “‘But the scale of want is enormous – more than 12 million people across the region need support. Public acts of generosity must be matched by government action, and that unfortunately has been in short supply. The UN appeals are still woefully under funded.”

A UN consolidated appeal, trying to raise $2.4bn for east Africa, has so far received $1.2bn, a 52% shortfall. UN appeals are rarely – if ever – fully funded, however. Of current appeals, only Afghanistan, which is 63% funded, is anywhere near target.

By Mark Tran

Source: Guardian | 13 August 2011

Front Photograph: Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor (Unicef/PA)

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