FWD campaign brings attention to East Africa drought

Updated: Launched by USAID and the Ad Council, a new public awareness campaign focused on the Horn of Africa drought encourages Americans to take notice and take action to save lives.

Edited by Shawna Templeton, World Vision U.S. Photo by Lucy Murunga, World Vision Kenya.
Published October 26, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

In the Horn of Africa, hunger is stalking 13.3 million people, with 35 percent of all children in the region now facing emergency levels of malnutrition.

Through the FWD Campaign, launched by USAID and the Ad Council, Americans are urged to spread the word or “FWD” the critical message to their friends to urge their support. FWD also describes the crisis in Africa — famine, war, and drought.

The campaign kicked-off on October 26 with a live-streaming “Open for Questions” event. The public was invited to submit questions about the famine via Twitter and Facebook.

‘Awareness among Americans just isn’t there’

Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., says that the campaign comes at a key time. Aid agencies continue to struggle to raise funds. “Compared to disasters like the quakes in Haiti or Japan, the awareness among Americans just isn’t there,” says Stearns.

“Famine is not a word aid workers or the UN throw around lightly,” Stearns adds. “It means hundreds, thousands are dying and are going to die if we don’t do something.”

World Vision has been responding across Kenya, Ethiopia, and parts of Somalia — both to save lives and to help prevent the further spread of famine. We’re distributing therapeutic food for children, clean water, sturdy tents, and essential medical care.

Getting the word out to the public and Congress

The FWD campaign is developing television, radio, and web ads, featuring well-known actors and public figures. Audiences are encouraged to text “GIVE” to 777444 to donate $10 to a coalition of humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa, including World Vision.

Meanwhile, World Vision has been warning that the current budget debate in Congress could result in disproportionate cuts that would cripple America’s ability to save lives in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. The International Affairs Budget (which is just 1.4 percent of the total federal budget) funds critical, life-saving programs.

“[Through the campaign], the [Obama] administration is sending a bold message to Americans to help save lives in the Horn of Africa,” says Dr. Kent Hill, World Vision’s senior vice president of international programs, “even while Congress is debating cutting life-saving food and emergency foreign aid to some of the same women and children.”

Adds Hill: “We all remember the Ethiopia famine in the 1980s. Americans responded, and Ethiopia hasn’t seen famine conditions since. America — and each of us individually — needs to respond now, or Somali children will continue to die.”

Four ways you can help

Please pray specifically for aid organizations like World Vision to reach those who are suffering most. Pray also for rain to come to this parched region of Africa, and for relief to come to families who are struggling just to survive.

Share information about this humanitarian emergency with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply five times to help provide emergency food, healthcare, and other critical assistance to this suffering part of the world.

Speak out. Urge our legislators to prioritize the needs of those suffering from hunger, and protect funding for live-saving programs from disproprtionate cuts.