On a day that the UK news agenda is dominated by a EU bail-out deal for Greece, David Bull, the UK Executive Director of UNICEF one of the largest aid organisation working in Somalia has continued his call for the focus to shift.

He’s called for a “bail-out” for the children of Somalia where the death rate in famine-hit areas is six times the normal emergency rate. As famine spreads across the country as many as 14 children are estimated to be dying each hour in the two worst-affected areas in South Somalia. It is the first time in 20 years that the United Nations has declared a famine.

At the same time President of UNICEF UK Lord Ashdown has called for the media to provide more coverage of the Children’s Famine in Somalia. A poll today by a national newspaper shows that 59% of people poll agreed with this call.

David Bull says that “the EU is considering a bailout package worth more than 100 billion euro and just one of those billions could meet the emergency need in Somalia where hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of death. We need a bail-out package for Somalia’s children, we need to act now before it is too late.”

Bull said added that: “The famine is caused by the worst droughts in 60 years as a result of climate change and the poor people of Somalia are not major contributors to climate change. It was also caused by years of conflict and the price of food which has more than doubled so that people cannot afford a proper meal”.

Lord Ashdown writing in Comment is Free says the famine did not happen suddenly: “UNICEF and other UN agencies, has been warning since January of a pending crisis and statements have been issued. 2011 has been a year filled with natural disasters and social upheaval in north Africa that have all been competing for news attention. Since drought is a slow-onset disaster, it is often very difficult to get the type of attention and response that is needed to raise the funds to prevent that disaster.”

In addition, Lord Ashdown, says the media is not doing enough to report on the desperate situation in Somalia: “The media also have a major role in the response to disasters. As former BBC producer Suzanne Franks pointedly wrote in the British Journalism Review: ‘Disasters – natural or man-made – exist only when they are covered by the media. Plenty of terrible things happen that remain unreported. Most disasters are known about only by those directly affected. And the crises that do get media attention are not necessarily those that kill or harm the most victims.’"

UNICEF, operating in Somalia since 1972, has flown emergency supplies into the areas under famine. A ship has left Kenya with tonnes of supplies and another is due to leave in a few days.

UNICEF receives no money from the Disasters Emergency Committee or the UN budget. It relies on voluntary donations.

To donate to UNICEF’s East Africa Appeal please go to www.unicef.org.uk, call 0800 037 9797, or text FAMINE to 70099 to make a £10 donation.

For further information please contact:
Terry Ally, UNICEF UK, Tel: 020 7375 6014, terrya@unicef.org.uk, or call the UNICEF UK press office on 020 7375 6030