Ghana schoolboy launches solo famine fundraiser

ACCRA, Ghana—As international aid agencies scramble for donations for East Africa’s famine victims, one multi-million-dollar fundraising drive has come from an unexpected source: a West African schoolboy.

Andrew Adansi-Bonnah is 11. And during his eight-week school holiday, he wants to raise 20 million Ghanaian cedis—or about $13 million—for his cause by walking office to office collecting donations in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

Since starting the drive Aug. 1, he has collected about $6,500 in pledges for the fund he started after consulting with UNICEF and the U.N.’s World Food Program. His father, schoolteacher Samuel Adansi-Bonnah, donated his entire July salary of about $500.

Andrew said he was inspired by images of skeletal babies and stick-thin children he saw on television, which led him to name his campaign Save Somali Children from Hunger.

“There are hungry people in Ghana but our situation is not as desperate as the people of Somalia,” said the skinny, soft-spoken boy.

The United Nations estimates more than 12 million people across East Africa need food aid because of a long-running drought that has sent more than 100,000 people fleeing to refugee camps. Somalia has been hit the hardest. U.S. officials estimate the famine has killed 29,000 children in the past three months.

The U.N. has yet to raise half of the $2.4 billion it has requested from donor countries. The U.N. says the famine is expected to spread to all regions of southern Somalia in the next four to six weeks unless more aid can be delivered.

The African Union has also urged African nations and private citizens to donate, and will hold a pledging conference later in August.

Andrew said he is confident he can raise all of the money. Ghanaians on average earn $2,500 a year, compared to Somalia’s average yearly income of $600, according to 2010 CIA estimates.

His father said Andrew’s interest in the cause surprised him.

“I even wondered why a child of his age should be concerned about people far away from him,” he said.

Andrew, who has taken to wearing a bright orange T-shirt bearing his fundraiser’s name, is an energetic fundraiser. He said he has made several attempts to draw attention to his cause, including a TV appearance and media interviews that have made him a minor celebrity in Ghana. He also said he tried—but failed—to make it onto a reality show to use the platform to raise money and awareness.

Andrew, who said he wants to be a pilot when he grows up, said he also wants to meet with Somalis who have fled to overcrowded Kenyan refugee camps.

“This is a moment that mankind can touch lives,” he said. “There is no point for others to have so much to eat while others have nothing to eat. It is not right.”

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