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The Globe and Mail

What's next for the $70-million Canadians donated to East Africa

Somali refugees sit an an outdoor camp near Dadaab, Kenya on Aug. 9, 2011.

Jerome Delay/AP

Individual Canadians have donated tens of millions of dollars to provide food and water in the parched region of East Africa where famine continues to threaten lives.

Bev Oda, the Minister of International Development, announced on Wednesday that the money given by Canadians to registered charities for African drought relief between July 6 and Sept. 16 was roughly $70-million.

The government has promised to match all funds donated during that period and has provided an additional $72.35-million for humanitarian efforts in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

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More than 11.5 million people have been affected by the lack of rain in the Horn of Africa. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, said last week that $700-million in aid would still be needed in the region in this year alone. The Canadian contribution will go some distance toward closing that gap.

Where will the money go?

The federal government will announce the final total of donations it intends to match in a couple of weeks along with details about how funds will be distributed.

Money will go to famine relief in East Africa, but it will not be parcelled out in bundles that correspond directly to the amounts that were received by each aid agency from individual Canadians.

The government funds will go to the World Food Program, the Canadian Red Cross, the International Red Cross and to other charities that the Canadian International Development Agency believes will make the most impact.

What comes next?

There has been some rain across the Horn of Africa in recent days that will provide water and greenery for livestock. But no locally grown food will be available until the first crops arrive in January.

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Kevin McCort, the president of CARE Canada, said his group is trying to sustain people until the next harvest. Then it will turn its attention to preventing, as much as possible, a recurrence of the catastrophe.

"You can provide people with means so they can avoid selling their assets," he said, "…so they're not having to sell their oxen or their seeds or their farm implements to buy food, otherwise they'll be vulnerable in the long term."

Pam Aung Trin, a director with the Canadian Red Cross, said her organization has a similar long-term focus on making the region more drought-resistant.

"That could be things like water irrigation systems, alternate ways of gaining a living other than livestock," she said.

How do donations to this crisis compare with others?

In the fall of 2010, the Canadian government allocated $79.8-million to respond to floods in Pakistan that killed nearly 2,000 people. More than half of that money matched funds from individual Canadians, who donated $46.8-million.

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In the first months of 2010, the government committed $550.15-million to relief and reconstruction in Haiti after an earthquake that killed 1,790 people. A significant portion of that money stemmed from a promise to match donations from individual Canadians, who gave $220-million to the cause.

The government donated $425-million to help victims of the 2004 South Asia earthquake and tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries. Canadian provinces donated $18-million, the Canadian public donated $230-million, and businesses donated another $36.3-million.

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