Using Social Media to Save Lives in the Horn of Africa

Nov 8, 2011 8:04pm

BY: CARRIE HALPERIN and MANDANA MOFIDI

What does FWD mean to you? Front Wheel Drive? Forward? How about Famine, War, and Drought?

A super star cast, including Josh Hartnett, Uma Thurman, Geena Davis and Anthony Bourdain, is lined up to send those three words – Famine, War, and Drought — out into the Twittersphere, to Facebook, Seamless, YouTube and just about every other social media platform, with a goal of spreading those words to 13.3 million times.

That 13.3 number? That is how many people are suffering from the triple crises of famine, war and drought that are right now ravaging the Horn of Africa.

The plan of attack for the FWD>Day campaign, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ad Council is simple: to employ people to jump on all the social media platforms where Americans whittle away their time to spread the word about what may be the worst famine of our generation.

According to the United Nations, a child is dying every six minutes from hunger in the Horn of Africa, and over 1.25 million children are in need of immediate treatment for malnutrition and other diseases.

In August, ABC News’ David Muir witnessed the life-threatening journey that women, children and families were making to escape the famine, war and drought in Somalia, walking for weeks through dangerous and harsh terrain to reach aid.

At the time, as many as 1,000 desperate refugees were streaming into the Dadaab refugee camp in Northeastern Kenya daily. And while the numbers arriving daily are now much lower, the camp is filled far beyond its capacity.

First Came the Drought, Now the Rains

Last week heavy rains hit the parched soil, and the crisis in the region worsened as flooding destroyed roadways, threatening to spread waterborne diseases like dengue fever.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the rains have flooded some 2,800 people in the Sigale camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, disrupting the transport system and slowing the pace of internal displacement in the impoverished country.

Insecurity in the areas around Dadaab, home to the largest refugee camps in the world, has threatened aid and stopped all but essential aide operations. Workers from international aid organizations have been victims of kidnappings and murder.

Amid the worsening situation, the United Nations has announced an increase in aid to the region. The FWD>Day campaign comes on the heels of this announcement, urging Americans to take one (or all) of these four simple ways to get involved:

(1) Join the powerful FWD coalition today simply by tweeting with the #FWD hash-tag, sharing updates from the USAID Facebook page and telling people about www.usaid.gov/FWD. Or, text “GIVE” to 777444 to donated $10 to the Horn of Africa.

(2) Visit our YouTube channel and upload your own FWD call to action.

(3) Create your own grassroots FWD campaign: GOOD is offering a $5,000 award for the best proposal to help raise local awareness about the FWD campaign and the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

(4)Texting Hope: Text “Give” to 777444 to donate $10 and visit www.USAID.gov/FWD to be a part of the solution. A ten dollar donation can help feed a child for ten days.

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