Popular comedian Tommy Tiernan is urging Irish people to support an appeal to save the lives of over 20 million people at risk of famine in the Horn of Africa.
The appeal was launched today (September 13) by Mr Tiernan and the Irish Emergency Alliance (IEA), comprising seven leading humanitarian aid agencies including Action Aid, Christian Aid, Plan International, Self Help Africa, Tearfund, Trócaire and World Vision Ireland.
Four failed consecutive rainy seasons have resulted in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia facing their worst drought in 40 years, with more than a million and a half people already forced to leave their homes and villages in search of food and water.
The Alliance has said children are dying every day due to the hunger crisis, and warned that “every minute counts.”
Mr Tiernan, who visited Somalia with humanitarian aid agency Trócaire last week, said, "I was in Gedo in Somalia last week and visited two of the 200 internally displaced people’s camps across the region which are accommodating nearly a quarter of a million people.
"They are there because they have no food. The Irish Emergency Alliance needs funds to buy food to stop people starving to death. Many children have already died.”
The IEA is asking people to give what they can to the emergency appeal.
In their joint statement: "There have been warnings for months that unprecedented drought, rising food prices and a lack of funding for humanitarian organisations have been creating a silent emergency in The Horn Of Africa. But those warnings were not heeded and we are now on the brink of an unthinkable humanitarian catastrophe.
"Most at risk are the elderly, and children who lack the physical strength and resources to cope with days and weeks of starvation. When a baby is severely malnourished, even if they survive, they may never be the same again as their developing brains are so vulnerable."
Persistent drought is causing harvests to continue to fail, with nearly nine million livestock dying.
The Alliance said, "The unjust reality is that people suffering in the Horn of Africa, many herders, had no hand in causing droughts driven by climate change. Grain is in short supply, with costs soaring in some of the poorest regions in the world because of a faraway war in Ukraine.
Speaking today, CEO of Plan International Ireland, Paul O’Brien, who recently returned from Somaliland, said, "Many people we talked to felt they are suffering because of Climate Change. In my 35 years in this sector, I have never heard ordinary people talking about the impact of Climate Change so clearly and relating it directly to their experience. A woman who explained to me the reality of the situation said, 'Our cattle used to feed us, now we are feeding them, they are dying, and we are next'."
CEO of Trócaire, Caoimhe De Barra also remarked: "I have seen at first hand on a visit to Trocaire programmes in Somalia last week the unjust and unthinkable suffering of thousands of people who are hungry and on the brink of starvation, forced to leave their homes in desperate search of assistance.
"It is heart-breaking to hear from our staff stories of children dying en route to internally displaced camps, or in our hospitals because they have presented too late for treatment.”
Rosamond Bennett, Chief Executive of Christian Aid Ireland, who travelled to northern Kenya recently, said, "I was shocked by the severity of the drought in northern Kenya. The deadly impact of four back-to-back failed rainy seasons was clear to see.
"I met with families subdued from hunger, saw shrivelled crops starved of water and the carcasses of livestock dotted all around, animals which are the lifeblood of rural communities. The window is fast closing to prevent this devastating crisis we are seeing in the Horn of Africa from becoming a complete catastrophe.”
Donations to this urgent appeal can be made through www.IrishEmergencyAlliance.org or by calling 1800 939 979
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