POLITICS

East Africa famine donation matching ends Friday

09/16/2011 12:12 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST

The head of one foreign aid agency says he doesn't believe Canadians have "donor fatigue," as a deadline for government matching funds looms for donations to East Africa famine relief.

The final deadline for the matching funds is midnight Friday.

Kevin McCort, head of Care Canada, said he doesn't believe Canadians are weary of giving after several years of disasters around the world.

"There's some element of donor uncertainty. So this draws attention to the fact that our aid is effective, it's getting into the hands of people who need it, it's getting directly into the hands of families," he said.

It's not known how much was collected in the last week as aid agencies made a final plea for more.

"Once the deadline is reached at tonight, midnight, then reports will start coming into CIDA," the Canadian International Development Agency, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda said.

The Humanitarian Coalition, an umbrella group for Care Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Plan Canada and Save the Children, had one of its best days ever on Wednesday as people realized that aid was getting where it's needed and that there was an opportunity to get your donation matched, McCort says. The group drew $275,000 in one day, beating its best day last year during fundraising for Pakistan flood relief.

The deadline for matching famine relief funds won't be extended because the government wants to start doling out the money quickly and get it flowing to the aid groups on the ground, Oda said earlier in the week.

The federal government has committed $72 million to the region already and the eventual amount of the East Africa Drought Relief Fund will be on top of that contribution. The fund will be split up among organizations that CIDA decides are best-suited to deliver aid on the ground.

The region's worst drought in 60 years has affected 13 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, leading the Canadian government to offer to match donations to eligible charities working in the region. As of the first week of September, Canadians had donated more than $35 million.

A combination of drought and armed groups has left people starving, with thousands migrating in search of food. UNICEF estimates 250 children are dying every day in the region – one every six minutes, Save the Children's Patricia Erb told CBC News last week.

The UN estimated in August it had raised only $1.1 billion of the $2.4 billion they estimated was needed to help those hit by the famine. More than 12 million people need urgent aid following a severe drought, according to the UN. Somalia is one of the hardest hit countries and nearly half the population, about 3.2 million, need food.