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Four weeks is too late, act now!
Luxembourg

Four weeks is too late, act now!

3 min. 14.03.2012 From our online archive
As the famine in the Horn of Africa grows reaches critical levels, Luxembourg's Red Cross is doing its utmost to keep fleeing refugees alive. Here, NGO spokeswoman Myriam Jacoby explains the difference Luxembourg could make if much-needed funds are given.

As the famine in the Horn of Africa grows reaches critical levels, Luxembourg's Red Cross is doing its utmost to keep fleeing refugees alive.

Here, NGO spokeswoman Myriam Jacoby explains the difference Luxembourg could make if much-needed funds are given.

Describe the crisis the Luxembourg Red Cross is trying to tackle in the Horn of Africa?

When there's a famine or appeal we try to respond directly and to give what's needed. I do research about the situation when I see it is becoming critical.

We realised that things in Sudan and Somalia were becoming critical in March this year. We hoped that rain would come but it didn't.

The people there are suffering severe nutritional problems which are becoming critical.

Now the situation is such that they can't find anything to eat. The children are so weak they can barely move.

What stories have shocked you most about the situation in East Africa?

The most striking thing I heard was about mothers who try to bring their children to hospital or to the camps. They get so far and are too weak to carry them. They have to leave the child at the side of the road because they don't have the strength.

There are stories of mothers who take a child to hospital and leave their other children at home. They cannot return so the child left behind starves to death because they have nothing to eat. I've also heard of people walking for two days just to get half a glass of water. It's really shocking!

The last time the public saw images like this was during the 1980s when Ethiopia faced severe famine. What makes the current situation different?

This time it's doubly hard because there is the threat from rebels in Sudan. If people stay at home, they may be safe from the rebels but they have nothing to eat or drink and so there is a risk they will die.

If they leave home, there is a chance they may make it to a refugee camp but there is also the risk they will be stopped and killed by the rebels on the way. It's a difficult situation. They really have no choice.

What needs to be done in the short and long term to resolve the problem?

In the short-term we have to get food and water to help these people to survive. In the long-term, countries may be able to offer asylum to some of these people but that is a long way in the future.

Also, we need to start agricultural projects to help people grow sustainable food sources. Again that is several years down the line. The trouble with that is that it requires rain and that is something which is unfortunately out of the hands of NGOs like the Luxembourg Red Cross.

Some potential donors fear that funds given will be syphoned off by corrupt officials and won't help the people who need them most. What can you say to reassure donors this won't happen?

The Luxembourg Red Cross uses its funds to buy materials and foodstuff which is sent out to the coordinating team in the field. We've sent 10,500 kilos of "Plumpy nuts" and 100,000 high nutrition bars which are distributed directly. If you give us one euro, it will feed a child for a week and we guarantee that.

The Luxembourg Red Cross this week launched an appeal for donors. What's been the result of this?

We've been a bit disappointed as we've not received as many donations as we had hoped. We hope that Luxembourg will react and be concerned about this situation. The crucial message is that if you are going to give, do it now. Don't wait three or four weeks because it will be too late. A lot of people will have died by then and that's what we want to avoid.

As international delegate to the Luxembourg Red Cross Myriam Jacob is responsible for responding on a local level to emergency situations and catastrophes. She coordinates with Red Cross International's teams who work in the field to deliver aid where it's needed most.

Donate to the Luxembourg Red Cross by transferring funds to the following bank account: CCPL LU52 1111 0000 1111 0000