29 August 2011 The African Union (AU) last week secured over US$351-million in cash and some $28-million in kind at a pledging conference for the drought in the Horn of Africa. The South African government responded to the humanitarian crisis by raising R8-million towards the famine relief programme, R4-million of which was donated to the South African NGO, Gift of the Givers, towards transportation and logistical costs of delivering aid to Somalia. The AU pledging conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last Thursday sought to fill the $1-billion gap in the $2.4-billion needed to address the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. Representatives from China, Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates and Mexico were also among the attendees. Compounded by conflict Countries of the Horn of Africa have been gripped by severe drought and famine – the worst in 60 years, said AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping, adding that the situation in Somalia had been compounded by conflict and insecurity, lack of access to affected areas, high food prices, and human and livestock diseases. Jerry John Rawlings, former president of Ghana and AU High Representative for Somalia, said African governments needed to contribute at least $50-million urgently to the AU Humanitarian Disaster Fund. According to Ping, Ethiopia and Kenya have been making huge contributions by opening their doors to Somalis, receiving them in large numbers, even though they themselves have been affected by the drought. On Thursday South Africa pledged a further $280 000 for relief efforts in the region. Addressing the root cause South Africa, which has been providing support to the vulnerable communities in Somalia, was represented at the pledging conference by International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Marius Fransman. Source: BuaNews Senior officials from member states as well as heads and representatives of regional organisations and AU partners gathered at the conference organised under the theme, “One Africa, One Voice against Hunger”. Fransman said South Africa would continue to work with the AU, the Africa Group in Rome and the UN in general to ensure not only that immediate humanitarian relief operations and needs were being addressed, but to strike a balance between the short-term relief responses and the need for development in the long term to address the root causes of the crisis. “If we do not act urgently, they face slow, certain death by starvation,” he said.