x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Famine cash hits Dh25m as all ages pitch in

A telethon campaign to raise money for victims of the famine and drought in the Horn of Africa has pulled in at least Dh25 million, organisers say.

Organisers hope tonight’s final telethon will double funds already raised.
Organisers hope tonight’s final telethon will double funds already raised.

DUBAI // Celebrities are urging the community to give generously to help the victims of famine and drought in the Horn of Africa.

During a national fundraising telethon being broadcast on Abu Dhabi Television, an estimated Dh12 million was raised on Wednesday evening. However, contributions outside the telethon yesterday raised the figure to an estimated Dh25m. The telethon will conclude this evening, and organisers say they hope this figure will double.

The campaign, called Suqyahum ("quenching your thirst") was organised by the Red Crescent Authority (RCA) on the directive of Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE.

The Emirati actor, Ahmad Al Jassmi, spoke about the magnitude of the tragedy on Wednesday, and appealed to the audience to try to ease the tragedy in Africa.

"It is a tragedy for a mother to see her son die before her eyes. The people, livestock and land are dying ... this is a catastrophe. The pictures speak louder than the words," he said.

The Kuwaiti actor, Ibrahim Al Harbi, appealed to the audience to heed the call for support: "What we see is something that hurts our hearts ... it is really difficult to use words to describe it."

Relief aid workers said there was a constant flow of refugees, a high number of deaths and insufficient food to cover the humanitarian crisis.

Reports from various shopping malls across the Emirates have said that the public has responded to the appeal, and some children have even come forward to contribute their pocket money after seeing images of other children suffering.

Mohammad Yamahi, the call centre manager, said: "One of the benefactors contributed a car - an Audi."

Officials, clerics, humanitarian experts and doctors appealed to the public to give what they could to alleviate some of the suffering.

Ahmed Humaid Al Mazroui, the chairman of the board of directors at the RCA, described the gravity of the situation.

"It has reached the extent that when children die, you see their skeletal frames, and if you look overhead you see wild birds hovering, waiting for them to pass so that they can feed on them," he said.

The RCA official said a child dies every seven minutes.

Dr Shaikh Naji Al Arabi, a Muslim cleric, said: "We are not addressing the UAE population, or the Gulf states, or Arabs or Muslims - we are addressing humanity as a whole."

balqabbani@thenational.ae