Celebrity social media push to help Somalia goes viral

Campaign to raise $1m to deliver humanitarian aid to country on the brink of famine gets massive public support.

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    The UN says 2.9 million people in Somalia need urgent help 'to save or sustain their lives' [Reuters]
    The UN says 2.9 million people in Somalia need urgent help 'to save or sustain their lives' [Reuters]

    A social media campaign aiming at delivering humanitarian aid to Somalia, a country on the brink of famine, through a Turkish Airlines flight has gone viral with backing from celebrities and people across the world. 

    After being initiated with a tweet by Jerome Jarre, the French social media celebrity, on Wednesday, the Twitter hashtags #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia and #LoveArmyForSomalia have taken on a snowballing effect with support from a group of celebrities.

    Actor Ben Stiller, social media personality Juanpa Zurita and YouTube personality and filmmaker Casey Neistat, American football player Colin Kaepernick and many others swiftly backed the campaign.

    All of them have widespread social media reach across various platforms.

    The group has started an online funding campaign to raise money to finance food aid, while asking Turkish Airlines, the only company that flies to Somalia, to deliver the aid to the East African country suffering from drought and famine.

    "It all started on Twitter," Jarre told Al Jazeera, adding that they were still seeking whatever support and publicity they could find to hit the $1m mark for which they are aiming.

    He said he believed his initiative was going to be successful when he was sending out the first tweet.

    "Human suffering affect all of us. Famine in Africa is everyone's problem. We are all connected at a level that we don't understand. For this reason, I believed this was possible," Jarre told Al Jazeera.

    And it proved possible as celebrities, as well as people across the world, pushed the campaign forward.

    Turkish Airlines also started backing the campaign by retweeting the tweets related to the push, finally posting a video on Friday with the title, "Ready for take-off to help Somalia".

    "As the only airline connects Somalia to the world, we will be happy to deliver your love and assistance to Somalia on your behalf," a pilot said in the video.

    "As the Turkish Airlines family, we are proud to be part of this great cause." 

    Jarre said in a video update around the same time on Friday that he and his friends got a phone call from Turkish Airlines, letting them know that the company accepted their request to fly 60 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Somalia on March 27.

    Stephen O'Brien, the UN humanitarian chief, said after his recent visit to Somalia that more than half the population - 6.2 million people - need humanitarian assistance and protection, while 2.9 million of them need urgent help "to save or sustain their lives".

    The World Health Organization says more than 363,000 acutely malnourished children and 70,000 severely malnourished children are in need of urgent, life-saving support in the country.

    INFOGRAPHIC: Somalia's worsening drought

    Somalia's prime minister announced earlier this month that the deaths of at least 110 people due to hunger and diarrhoea in the country over the past 48 hours.

    The country faced a similar crisis in 2011 when nearly 260,000 people died.

    Twenty million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria currently face starvation and famine, according to the UN.

    Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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