British Olympian Mo Farah fronts appeal for starvation in East Africa

by Daniel Wesangula | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 09:13 GMT

Mo Farah celebrates winning gold in the 5000m final at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. August 20, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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"I can't imagine how awful it would be to watch my children not having food to eat or water to drink, but this is a reality being faced by so many parents in East Africa" - Mo Farah

By Daniel Wesangula

NAIROBI, March 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British Olympic champion Mo Farah is supporting a charity appeal, launched on Wednesday, for 16 million people facing starvation in East Africa, including Somalia where he was born.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of 13 leading British aid agencies, are raising funds for South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, which have been hit by drought.

"It breaks my heart," Farah, 33, said on his Facebook page.

"I can't imagine how awful it would be to watch my children not having food to eat or water to drink, but this is a reality being faced by so many parents in East Africa."

FACTBOX: Why are millions starving in East Africa?

Farah, who was born in Somalia but moved to Britain as a child, is Britain's most successful track athlete, winning gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the London Olympics in 2012 and repeating the feat in 2016 in Rio.

The Mo Farah Foundation has donated 100,000 pounds ($125,000) to Save the Children to provide healthcare and nutrition to children in northern Somalia.

The United Nations declared last month that parts of war-torn South Sudan are experiencing famine, the first time the world has faced such a catastrophe in six years.

Somalia is on the brink of its second famine since 2011, with people already dying from hunger and diarrhoea resulting from drought.

"More than 800,000 children under five are severely malnourished," DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said in a statement. "Without urgent treatment, they are at risk of starving to death."

The British government will match the first 5 million pounds donated by the public, with International Development Secretary Priti Patel describing this as "an unprecedented challenge with millions of people stalked by the scourge of famine".

"The international community must ... stop the famine before it becomes a stain on our collective conscience," Patel said in a statement.

($1 = 0.8178 pounds) (Reporting by Katy Migiro @katymigiro; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)