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Africa asks itself: Where is the aid money?

African nations pledged five months ago to do more to help each other when famine and disaster strike. But so far, they haven't come up with the promised cash.

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Five months ago, in a grand auditorium and beneath a cinema-sized screen scrolling images of starving children, Africa’s leaders gathered to promise an end to a growing food crisis.

Aid appeals were being revised upwards weekly, highlighting just how severe the situation had gotten: By the time of that meeting, the first ever famine fund-raising conference by Africa for Africa, the amount needed to keep 12 million people from dying for a lack of food was nearing $1.5 billion.

What aid agencies call “traditional donors” – among them the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, The World Bank – were, belatedly, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the United Nations’ appeal account. By the close of the meeting, at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Ethiopia in August, more than $350 million had been pledged from the governments of a third of the continent’s countries and the African Development Bank. Until then Africa’s own contribution to keep its starving citizens alive had been paltry.

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