x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Somalia famine telethon raises Dh12 million in hours

A national fund-raising telethon by the Red Crescent Authority raised about Dh12 million in just a few hours last night.

Abu Dhabi TV broadcasters moments before going to air with a telethon in aid of Red Crescent's Somalia famine appeal.
Abu Dhabi TV broadcasters moments before going to air with a telethon in aid of Red Crescent's Somalia famine appeal.

DUBAI // A mother's struggle to find water for her children only to lose all three of them was broadcast last night during a telethon to raise funds for famine victims in the Horn of Africa.

The national fund-raising telethon by the Red Crescent Authority (RCA) kicked off on Abu Dhabi Television, raising about Dh12 million in the first few hours.

The campaign, called Suqyahum ("quenching your thirst") was organised by the RCA on the directive of Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE. The telethon was also broadcast on other local channels.

"I knew he could walk no more," the mother said. "I sat with him in the sunlight … I knew he was going to die. He was so brave, my oldest boy. I promised that I would never leave him but that night he left me. My heart was heavy. My feet were heavier."

When she finally left behind her third child in search of a well and found some water, she returned to find her baby had also died.

"Tears ran down my face like the rain that had never come … because here we cry tears for rain. We cry for a drop of rain," said the mother.

Her story is not unique; it is one of thousands that encapsulate the deep anguish and suffering of the people in the region, campaign organisers say.

"This is a real story about the situation in the Horn of Africa and there are stories that are even harsher than this," said Ahmed Humaid Al Mazroui, the chairman of the board of directors at the RCA.

"This mother of three children is looking desperately for water but can't find any for her starved children."

Mr Al Mazroui called on all charitable organisations and the community to unite and give their support to the victims of the drought.

Dr Sheikh Naji Al Arabi, a Muslim scholar, said: "Today we can't say that Somalia is far from where we are.

"It is present in our homes. Each of us sees how many people are starving and how children are so starved that they are not able to move their arm to remove a fly off their faces."

A report documenting the plight of victims was also shown as various officials, clerics, humanitarian experts and celebrities appealed to the public to contribute whatever they could - even if it is only a few dirhams.

"The main objective and message is for locals to lend their support to the millions of people in the Horn of Africa who are suffering from starvation by giving financially or in kind," Dr Saleh Al Taee, the secretary general and adviser to the RCA, said yesterday before the telethon.

"Contributions are accepted from people in the UAE and also from individuals outside the UAE who can call the centre.

"Financial contributions can go a long way to purchasing the items that the Somalis need, but items such as medicines, especially those for children, and children's milk are among the other goods that are useful."

Dr Al Taee also appealed to business owners and medical supply companies urging them to call the Red Crescent to arrange to send their contributions to the troubled region.

"There is difficulty getting the items to Somalia but we have a shipment going there in 10 days," he said, referring to the UAE relief ship that will carry 400,000 tonnes of food, clothes and medical supplies to Mogadishu.

"I would also ask hospitals that have a surplus in medical supplies or equipment to contribute, and for doctors who would like to volunteer to come forward."

Another fund-raiser by Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) has raised Dh18.8m for those affected by the droughts.

The three-day fund-raising telethon was part of a media campaign by DMI in collaboration with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment.

balqabbani@thenational.ae