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A surge of humanity is needed

Today I heard governments and regional leaders from around the world voicing strong commitments to act on the growing humanitarian catastrophe in East Africa.

Gathering in Rome at a UN emergency summit on the crisis, noble words have been spoken, most notably from Norway who reminded us that “a surge of humanity is needed”.

But that surge of humanity must be expressed in urgent action, not just in well-crafted words.

The international community now agrees that massive mobilisation is required – as well over 10 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Billon dollar shortfall

But we all leave today’s meeting knowing there remains a shortfall of a billion dollars.

This summit, called at the request of the France, is designed to mobilise international support for the life-saving response across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

But despite organising the meeting the French government has donated around $10 million to the aid effort, lagging far behind Britain’s recent $85 million donation.

Italy – the host of today’s summit and Europe’s fourth largest economy- has contributed a mere $900,000.

But surely a crisis of this scale (the largest planned response in Save the Children’s history) demands support from all – old donors and new donors alike.

Warnings failed

This year the Gulf states are forecasted to make an extra $230 billion dollars in oil revenue. Just a tiny fraction of this would be game-changing for East Africa.

Lives have already been saved across the region, but countless lives have also been lost. Early Warning Systems should translate into early action – but they didn’t here.

The system failed East Africa. The media has shined a spotlight on this crisis, but governments and world leaders should never wait for media attention to act, should not pause when a crisis is unfolding before them.

Children and families across the region need decisive action, and they needed it months ago.

Resources needed now

Today’s conference has not brought many new solutions, but today, it is not new solutions that are needed. We know what needs to be done. Resources are needed. Humanitarian access must be sought and long term commitments made.

We need to bring about the action so urgently needed, ahead of the noble words that have been spoken today.

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