Today, hundreds of thousands of British Muslims will begin the holy month of Ramadan – a time of fasting, devotion, charity, and care. From sunset to sunrise, they will refrain from eating and drinking, and focus on reflection, self-discipline and prayer.
But for millions of Muslims in the Horn of Africa, this month of fasting will be more than a matter of religious devotion. In Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia people are experiencing the worst humanitarian catastrophe in a generation. Many areas are facing the driest period for sixty years. 10 million people are in desperate need of emergency relief.
In the past few weeks, I have visited the region and was horrified by what I encountered. At one refugee camp in Kenya, I met women who had walked for weeks to reach refuge. Some had been robbed; many had met violence; others had lost children to hunger along the way.
We cannot ignore this appalling situation and I am proud that Britain is leading the way. The government has already provided over £90 million of aid to the region which will provide emergency assistance to more than 2 million people, including access to clean drinking water and treatment for starving children.
But far more is needed urgently. We are vigorously pressing the international community to join us in taking action. We also need to work together as a country, in line with our strong tradition of generosity, and do everything we can to support the DEC Appeal. The British public have already been incredibly supportive but please, as we enter Ramadan, reach into your pockets and give what you can.
Thank you and with all good wishes for Ramadan.
1st August 2011