Kenyans in the US raise money in solidarity with hungry compatriots

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Kenyans in New York City held a rally in Manhattan’s Times Square on Saturday to raise awareness and collect donations for hunger relief in East Africa.

This follows efforts by individuals and companies in Kenya that by Friday had raised nearly Sh500 million to help stave off a looming famine crisis.

The New York initiative comes as US charities report poor response to pleas for private donations to stem the spreading humanitarian crisis in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

“I’m asking myself where is everybody and how loud do I have to yell and from what mountain top,” Ms Caryl Stern, director of the United States Fund for Unicef, told the New York Times earlier this week.

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“The overwhelming problem is that the American public is not seeing and feeling the urgency of this crisis,” Ms Stern added.

Asian tsunami

Contributions to the East Africa emergency are lagging far behind those received for the 2004 Asian tsunami and last year’s Haiti earthquake, US aid groups say. The US government, on the other hand, ranks as by far the largest state donor to Kenya’s food needs.

Dr Jill Biden, the wife of US Vice-President Joe Biden, was expected in Kenya together with the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

Dr Biden and USAid chief Rajiv Shah were to assess the food emergency in East Africa and consider what more the United States should be doing to assist in relief efforts.

Dr Biden’s delegation is expected to visit the Dadaab refugee camp and hold talks with government officials. The US VP and Dr Biden visited Kenya in June last year when Dr Biden also visited the Kibera slum and the Starehe Girls’ Centre in Nairobi.

Washington’s $160 million in humanitarian aid to Kenya so far this year amounts to more than one-third of all funding from donor countries, according to the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Aid (Ocha).

The European Commission ranks second, with $67 million in assistance to Kenya, which represents 15 per cent of the total. China has not supplied Kenya with any humanitarian aid this year, according to Ocha.

Other potential donors are also not responding adequately, Ocha says, noting that the UN Drought Appeal is only 44 per cent funded, with an additional $1.4 billion urgently required.

The purpose of Saturday’s rally, said organiser Peter Kerre, was “to not only spread awareness of the crisis but also how to contribute”.

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