THE CANADIAN PRESS — OTTAWA - The Canadian government is giving $50 million towards famine relief efforts in the Horn of Africa.
Ottawa will also be matching any donations Canadians make individually to help the estimated 11 million people suffering the effects of long-term drought in the region.
The United Nations officially declared a famine in parts of Somalia earlier this week and launched an emergency appeal for aid.
Thousands of refugees have fled ongoing violence and drought in Somalia and are pouring into refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya.
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda made the announcement while visiting a camp complex in Kenya called Dadaab, which hosts more than 380,000 Somali refugees.
Oda called the situation faced by people living at the camps "humanity in despair."
"Their determination and courage in the face of this catastrophe must be matched by our willingness to help," she said, according to a text of her remarks.
"Canadians have always helped to ease the suffering of others and Canada has a strong history of support for Africa. When the world is faced by a crisis of this scale, we must respond accordingly."
Half of Canada's donation will go towards food aid through the World Food Program, while the other half will be for supplies, water and sanitation and also be channelled through UN agencies.
The matching program is similar to ones the government ran in response to the earthquake in Haiti, which raised over $200 million.
Each dollar Canadians give to a registered charity doing work in East Africa will be matched by the federal government. The program is retroactive to July 6 and will run until September 16.
"The courage and suffering that I witnessed in the camp today deserves Canada's assistance," Oda said.
"I encourage all Canadians to help the people of East Africa in their time of need."
Prolonged drought in Somalia devolved into famine because the Somali government and many aid agencies are banned from areas under control of the military group al-Shabab.
The group had said earlier this month that they wanted to open talks with aid groups, but said late Thursday they are still banned.
The spokesman for al-Shabab, Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage also called the U.N.'s declaration of famine in parts of Somalia politically motivated and "pure propaganda."
Canada has already given $22 million in funding this year to humanitarian relief efforts in East Africa.
- with files from The Associated Press.