Agence France-Presse, August 18, 2011
ISTANBUL: Members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, at an emergency meeting in Istanbul Wednesday, vowed to donate $350 million for famine relief in Somalia.
"We said we aimed (to collect) 500 million. We are committed 350 million today," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish general secretary of the OIC, told a press conference following the talks.
The promised amount includes $150 million that Turkey has already collected for Somalia, Ihsanoglu said.
Other donations came from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Gabon, Iran, Kazakhistan, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Sudan, according to the meeting's unofficial final declaration.
The United Nations has declared that $1 billion is needed for Somalia, but the international community only pledged half this amount, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in his opening remarks.
Representatives from some 40 of the 57 OIC member countries convened in Istanbul to discuss how to boost aid to Somalia.
All vowed to contribute through the Somali fund that was founded under the OIC secretariat, said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Kazakhistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and the OIC constituted a special group dedicated to follow the situation in Somalia and coordinate the aid campaigns, he added.
"We decided to have aid campaigns in all Islamic countries," Davutoglu said.
The Islamic world would "actively take part" in finding a solution for the domestic tensions in Somalia, he added.
Turkey is going to reopen its embassy in Mogadishu that it closed in 1991 due to security reasons, Davutoglu said.
Kazakhistan, the term chair of the OIC, also offered to establish a food security mechanism to prevent future famines in the Horn of Africa, Kazakhistan's Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov said.
"The OIC secretariat will open bank accounts in different countries for individual donations to Somalia," Kazykhanov said.
Turkey, which had called on the OIC to hold an emergency meeting, has sent a cargo plane carrying a field hospital and 30 tons of aid to the drought-hit country.
"There is a fire in Somalia and what's urgent is to extinguish that fire," Erdogan said, inviting Muslim countries as well as strong economies throughout the world to extend a helping hand to the people of Somalia.
President Abdullah Gul met his Somali counterpart Sharif Ahmed on the sidelines of the OIC meeting.
Erdogan is due to leave for the Somali capital Mogadishu on Thursday evening, with his wife and daughter, as well as Davutoglu and three other cabinet members and deputies from his ruling party, who will also be accompanied by their families.
On Friday they will oversee the distribution of Turkish aid in refugee camps.
Previously Turkey sent three planes carrying dozens of tons of food and medical supplies for Somalis during Ramadan.
Turkish television channels have been screening footage of the catastrophe unfolding in Africa to help drum up aid.
Since the arrival in power of Erdoban's Justice and Development Party, a moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, Turkey has taken an increasing interest in Africa.
Ankara has been playing the role of regional leader and opened several embassies across the continent with the aim of finding new markets for products from the world's 17th biggest economy.
As a result of these initiatives, Turkey, Islam's main representative within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also secured a seat as non-permanent member on the United Nations Security Council in 2009-2010.
Turkey is angling to repeat the feat in 2015-2016.
Somalia is the country hardest hit by the drought that has affected people around the Horn of Africa region. UN officials have said some 12 million people are in danger of starvation.