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Update: On February 3, 2012 the UN declared the Somali famine "over for now" following an exceptional harvest and deliveries by aid agencies, but warned that food stocks could run out again in May. There are still millions of people in Somalia in need of food, clean water, shelter, and other assistance to survive.

Starving in South Africa Countries in the Horn of Africa are in the midst of what is being called the worst drought in 60 years. This combined with armed conflict has led to chaos in the region. Famine has officially been declared in several regions of Somalia and a severe food crisis extends beyond Somalia to Kenya and Ethiopia. More than 12 million people are affected, with the malnutrition-related death toll in Somalia already in the tens of thousands before famine was declared. Other countries in the region including Djibouti, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda are also affected by a food crisis.

Donors need to be aware that due to an ongoing war between the Somali government and Islamic opposition groups, such as al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, it is very difficult if not impossible for charitable aid to reach the areas in Somalia where suffering is the greatest.

Humanitarian agencies have asked the international community for $2.48 billion dollars to provide humanitarian aid, and as of August 2011, have secured less than half the amount.

CharityWatch announces its top-rated list of charities involved in efforts to provide relief to victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa. CharityWatch, a leading charity watchdog that issues letter grade (A+ to F) ratings of nonprofit groups, identifies the following charities, which are providing aid to the victims that receive an “A” or “B” grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency:
Note: Links will open in a new window

Top-rated charities perform favorably in relation to CharityWatch benchmarks:
1) A charity should spend at least 75% of its budget on program services.
2) Charities should spend no more than $25 to raise $100.

Contact your favorite charities to find out if they provide the specific types of aid that you would like to fund, e.g., emergency relief, health care, infrastructure development, education, etc.

As with any charitable contribution, Americans wanting to help African relief efforts should send contributions to only those charities with an established track record of helping people in this region. Though these crises are not highly publicized, disreputable, fly-by-night “charities” always exist to take advantage of the public’s generosity.

The best way to help is by sending a check. Cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed type of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance. Before sending any goods, first contact the charity to find out if they are appropriate and if it will be cost effective to distribute them. For example, after the tsunami, boxes of donated winter coats, scarves and fuzzy hats, completely useless items in tsunami stricken nations with tropical climates, were sent to these nations.

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