USAID, Ad Council Raise Awareness of East Africa Famine

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With literally millions of people in the Horn of Africa threatened with starvation, the U.S. Agency for International Development is partnering with the Ad Council to launch a national public awareness campaign.

The goal is getting Americans to support humanitarian organizations engaged in relief operations, including the American Refugee Committee, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, World Vision, and World Food Program USA.

The campaign also aims to raise awareness and build support for the Obama administration's "Feed the Future Initiative," which is intended to prevent similar disasters before they start.

The pro bono multimedia campaign is being developed by the Ad Council and ad agency R/GA. It will encourage Americans to text GIVE to 777444 to donate $10 to the consortium of humanitarian organizations listed above -- and also spread the word, or "FWD" the message to their friends (the campaign's tagline).

The campaign will also direct audiences to www.usaid.gov/FWD to find more information, including a listing of U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa. One corporate donor, General Mills, has agreed to match the first 2,000 text donations made to the FWD campaign.

The FWD campaign will include television, radio and Web ads featuring well-known actors and public figures, as well as an extensive social media program leveraging USAID's Facebook and Twitter channels, third-party blogs and other sites.

Like most other PSAs, the ads will be distributed to traditional and online media outlets, which will run them in donated ad space of their choosing.

In addition to encouraging concerned individuals to forward the message to friends, the "FWD" tagline is also a sort of mnemonic acronym for the region's woes: famine, war, and disease. With tens of thousands already dead, 4 million people are currently experiencing food shortages and 13 million people are in need of emergency assistance, making this East Africa's worst famine in six decades.

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