U.S. government urges Amercians to donate to crisis in Horn of Africa, spread the word

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(From left) Gayle Smith of the National Security Council, Rajiv Shah, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement at a press briefing launching the FWD campaign.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Director Rajiv Shah hosted a press conference Wednesday at the White House announcing a new aspect of their “Famine, War, Drought” or FWD campaign – together with the Ad Council and other partners – to bring visibility to the challenges taking place in the Horn of Africa and inviting Americans to be active participants in assisting those in need.

The FWD campaign urges Americans to make a $10 contribution to a group of pre-screened, U.S.-based, non-profit organizations “that are capable of turning your donation into food for children, vaccines for kids,” by texting the word “Give” to 777444, Shah said.

The campaign also urges people to “FWD” the message on by visiting the campaign website – www.USAID.gov/FWD – where there is all kinds of information about what is happening on the ground – and forward the facts to your student groups, colleagues, friends, and church groups. “The small actions that we take together send a very powerful signal that we will stand by people and support those who are on the verge of death,” Shah said.

“If the world doesn’t stand up, we will see a group of children impacted by this for the rest of their lives,” said Gayle Smith of the National Security Council and an advisor to President Obama. “Also, we will have failed on our core values… People are literally dying as we speak. “

Shah said there are more than 13 million people requiring assistance in the war-torn region, where more than 30,000 children have lost their lives due to the famine, and the resulting malnutrition and diseases that come along with it. That number could grow to more than 50,000 in the next six months, he said. While the drought and famine are affecting the entire Horn of Africa, the crisis is most acute in Somalia. Food prices in the region have gone up 200 percent since the start of the crisis.

A lot of great innovations have been made using dollars already donated to the cause to help save lives of children – including immunization administration and development, the development of an orange-fleshed sweet potato now used to treat vitamin A deficiency, and other therapeutic nutrition delivery methods for the severely malnourished, Shah said.

The campaign also involves a series of public service announcements that will be played across the country – featuring such stars as Josh Hartnett, Uma Thurman and Geena Davis – urging people to participate in the relief efforts.

In related news, UNICEF released a report on October 20 that detailed the successes of the response in the African region thus far, noting that, “much more needs to be done to save hundreds of thousands of children at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease,” according to an organization press release.

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