As many of you know, the worst drought in 60 years has devastated communities throughout the Horn of Africa, leaving more than 13 million people in a state of crisis—greater than the population of Los Angeles and New York combined.
In Somalia—where twenty years of war and violence has limited humanitarian access and destroyed the country’s ability to respond—the drought has led to an outbreak of famine. According to UNICEF, as a result of this crisis, a child is dying in Somalia every six minutes.
The millions suffering from the effects of this crisis are facing incomprehensible suffering. Left with nothing, many are walking more than 100 miles toward refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Because the crisis in the Horn is so complex and because the scale is so difficult to comprehend, we have not seen people come together to respond in the same way they did after the earthquake in Haiti. Many who do hear about the crisis are left with the impression that we can’t successfully do anything about it.
But I know for a fact that we can fight this famine. We were fighting it before it started. Through safety net programs, we have helped 7.5 million Ethiopians withstand the worst effects of this drought without the need for humanitarian assistance.
And as a result of Feed the Future investments, we have seen more than a 300 percent increase in grain yields in Western Kenya in just one year, securing the nation’s agricultural backbone and helping lower the price of critical staples throughout the region.
But despite being the single largest donor of assistance in the region, we recognize we cannot fight the famine alone.
That’s why today, I’m announcing the launch of the FWD Campaign—in partnership with the Ad Council—to highlight the uniquely devastating nature of this crisis and to ask people to help spread awareness.
FWD—stands for Famine, War, Drought: the three major crises that have led to this perfect storm of devastation in the Horn of Africa. But it also stands for our call to action—that people get informed, get engaged and forward this information on to their friends and families.
The FWD campaign is our attempt to make our world smaller—to connect people with the clear knowledge and understanding of exactly what is happening in the Horn—and giving them a powerful way to respond.
The campaign has three components. One is an effort that’s centered on using a strong online presence and social media to raise awareness. If you go to FWD, you’ll see a number of new ways we’re using to inform and engage with people. We’re providing infographics, interactive maps and tool kits that people can use to learn about the crisis in simple, clear ways—and more importantly share that information others. And we’re partnering with Google, Facebook and Twitter to make sharing this information as easy as searching, updating your status or sending out a tweet.
There’s also a series of Public Service Announcements we’re filming with some key celebrities that will air in major media markets throughout the country. These PSA’s will go up on our Web site, as well as You Tube.
Finally, we’re also launching a text campaign with NGOs that are delivering critical assistance in the Horn. If you text “GIVE” to 777444, you can donate $10 to famine relief. To help get the campaign started, General Mills has agreed to match the first 2,000 text donations that come through the FWD campaign, up to $20,000.
But beyond donations, the most powerful contribution people will make will be to share what they learn. I ask that you encourage your friends and families to do more than donate. Have them visit FWD and follow @USAID on Twitter so they can forward the facts.