Oxfam fears Somalia famine aid will peter out

A foreign aid group official says Quebecers, who were slow to respond to calls for money for relief efforts in East Africa, opened up their wallets after the United Nations declared famine in southern Somalia.

Response good but the country is facing a protracted crisis

In this Sunday, July 24, 2011 photo women line up to sign up for the World Food Program emergency distributions in Dolo, Somalia.The World Food Program executive director Josette Sheeran said they can't reach the estimated 2.2 million Somalis in desperate need of aid who are in militant-controlled areas of Somalia. ((Jason Straziuso/Associated press))

A foreign aid group official says Quebecers, who were slow to respond to calls for money for relief efforts in East Africa, opened up their wallets after the United Nations declared famine in southern Somalia.

Only a few thousand dollars trickled in daily when charities first called for donations but Oxfam-Quebec officials said Thursday that their group began receiving up to $200,000 per day from Quebecers after the U.N. decision was made public on July 21.

A drought in Somalia is expected to continue until at least October. Aid workers fear that as the crisis drags on, donor fatigue will set in.

"You're looking at two, if not three really long months where people are really going to be hungry and really going to be suffering," said Quebecer Louis Belanger, who is based in Kenya, with Oxfam.

He said conditions in Somalia are dire.

"People have walked sometimes five weeks in the Somali Desert, they've been attacked by wild animals, and bandits," said Belanger.

Belanger has seen thousands arrive in the Dadaab refugee camp…unable to survive on their own.

"There was a woman that arrived with a baby that had died on her back. She didn't realize it but the baby was dead on her back," he said.

The United Nations said tens of thousands of people have already died in Somalia from malnutrition and more than 11 million urgently need food.

The federal government said it will match donations made by Canadian citizens between July 6 and Sept. 16.