The British public has helped to raise £50m in just 22 days for east Africa, allowing aid agencies to scale up efforts to help millions of people on the brink of starvation.
It brings the appeals for the hunger crises in Yemen and east Africa to a total of £72m, including the £15m the UK government has contributed.
It means money from the British public is already saving lives, said Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee.
He said that the £50m raised for east Africa will help provide millions of people across the region with food, water and medical care over two years. The Yemen appeal, which began in December, has reached £22m.
More assistance is already getting through to those who need it, despite major challenges. Cranes in the port of Hodeida have been destroyed in the Yemen conflict, while fighting in South Sudan, and in areas of Somalia controlled by terror groups, has also blocked access.
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“DEC charities were working in east Africa before we launched our appeal,” said Saeed, “It has already allowed them to scale up their operations.”
Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan, with people facing starvation in Somalia, parts of north-east Nigeria and Yemen. Roughly are affected.
International donors have also pledged $6bn (£5.1bn) for Syria and refugees in the Middle East, at an aid conference in Brussels that was overshadowed by that left scores of people dead.
Christos Stylianides, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, announced $6bn funding in a tweet at the end of the conference. “The world tells the Syrian people: you’re not alone!”
He later added: “We have the moral duty to respond to the enormous humanitarian needs – needs which will unfortunately continue for some time to come.”
The DEC, which consists of the UK’s leading charities, is directing its efforts in east Africa to where need is greatest, with South Sudan and Somalia, as well as the self-declared autonomous states of Puntland and Somaliland, its current focus.
“We have reports about aid delivery making an immediate difference to the lives of affected communities,” said Saeed. “For example, Concern Worldwide is supporting children at the Weydow nutrition centre just outside Mogadishu in Somalia; Save the Children is supplying food, water and medical care to 40 of the most drought-affected communities in Ethiopia and Somalia; Oxfam is providing water and sanitation to hundreds of thousands of people in Kenya; and British Red Cross has delivered emergency food supplies to thousands of people in South Sudan.”
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Other DEC partners, in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, have also recently launched public appeals for East Africa. The Dutch one has raised €30m (£25.5m).
Saeed said he was “incredibly grateful” for the response but that more still needed to be done as the crisis worsened. “We can be proud of the UK response to the east Africa appeal and the Yemen appeal.
“It’s a lot of money. The UK government and the British public have been at the forefront of this.”
The £50m includes a by the Department for International Development. The UK has already planned for £100m in overseas aid each for this year.
Priti Patel, the international development secretary, said: “The great British public has acted without hesitation to stop people dying of famine and hunger. Now it’s time for the international community to step up and follow Britain’s lead before it’s too late.”