USAID and Ad Council announce awareness campaign for the Horn

Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya

September 19, 2011

In response to the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has partnered with the Ad Council to launch a national public awareness campaign. The campaign will encourage Americans to spread awareness of the crisis, support the humanitarian organizations conducting the relief operations, and learn more about the solutions through President Obama's Feed the Future initiative to prevent these types of disasters from happening again. USAID Administrator Raj Shah will formally announce the campaign, titled FWD, this afternoon at Mashable's 2nd Annual Social Good Summit in New York.

Across the eastern Horn of Africa, more than 13 million people-a number greater than the populations of Houston and New York City combined-are now in need of emergency assistance to survive. 4 million are living through the worst famine in 20 years. The crisis is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today, and the worst that East Africa has seen in six decades. Crops have failed, livestock have died, and prices in local markets are too high for most people to buy what is needed to feed their families. Millions of people are affected in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and in Somalia tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the crisis.

"When I was in Kenya, I saw families who had walked for days or weeks, often barefoot, with no possessions, desperate to find food and medical care," said Dr. Jill Biden. "I also saw first-hand that even the smallest and simplest investments can save lives. Aid is working."

Through the Feed the Future initiative, the United States Government is addressing the root causes of chronic hunger by helping foster better farming, stronger markets, and greater resilience to climate shocks.

The Ad Council and volunteer advertising agency R/GA are developing the multimedia campaign, which will encourage Americans to donate to the relief efforts and also spread the word or "FWD" the critical message to their friends to encourage their support. FWD also describes the crisis in Africa-Famine, War and Drought. The campaign will direct audiences to text GIVE to 777444 to donate $10 to a consortium of humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa, comprised of American Refugee Committee, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, World Vision, and World Food Program USA. Audiences will also be directed to visit to find more information about the crisis and a listing of U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa that are accepting donations to aid in disaster relief.

"FWD stands for Famine, War, Drought: the three major crises that have led to this perfect storm of devastation in the Horn of Africa" said Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID's Administrator. "But it also stands for our call to action - that people get informed, get engaged and forward this information on to their friends and families."

The television, radio and Web ads are currently in development and they will feature well-known actors and public figures. In addition to the traditional ads, the campaign will include an extensive social media program via USAID's Facebook and Twitter channels, as well as blogs and other sites. Furthermore, the campaign will engage restaurants, chefs and corporate, media, non-governmental organizations, as well as the private sector including General Mills, PepsiCo and Cargill. General Mills has agreed to match the first 2,000 text donations that come through the FWD campaign.

"Many Americans are not aware of the gravity and the urgency of the crisis in the Horn of Africa or how they can help those who are in need," said Peggy Conlon, president & CEO of the Ad Council. "The American people have a history of responding in times of global crisis. I believe once we can get this on their radar, they will join in the FWD effort and support this critical campaign. We are proud to partner with USAID to support organizations providing relief for the people suffering from this catastrophe."

The Ad Council will distribute the PSAs to media outlets nationwide. Per the Ad Council's model, all of the PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years. The United States is the largest bilateral donor of emergency assistance to the eastern Horn of Africa. To learn more about U.S. assistance and how to help, visit