08/11/2011 04:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Doubling Down on Somali Famine Aid

Tomorrow I head to Dadaab, the immense refugee camp in Kenya that is taking in thousands of desperate men, woman and children from Somalia every day. As U.S. Ambassador to the Rome based U.N. Food and Agriculture agencies I already know most of their stories- the flight from famine, the twin depravations of Somalia's abject poverty and political insecurity, the mounting death toll...

But tomorrow will be my first time to see their faces. It will be my first opportunity to listen to them describe -- in their own words -- the horrific journey out of Somalia, accompanied by so much pain and fear and loss.

I've done this before, in too many other crises around the world, and I know I must push the emotional discomfort aside, and focus on getting the work done. And that work is already underway, and indeed, it is already making a dramatic impact. I know, from my coordination with Washington and with the U.N. Food Agencies in Rome over the past two years that we have worked hard to ensure that the best possible assistance is delivered now as quickly and as capably as possible.

The bottom line? We were preparing for a drought we knew was coming, and lives are being saved as a result.

This morning, Secretary Clinton announced an additional $17 million donation for life-saving humanitarian assistance to the region on top of the $105 million dollars the White House announced earlier this week. As of today, the total U.S. contribution for those in need in the region has now reached approximately $580 million.

Indeed, the U.S. has been monitoring the developing drought in the Horn of Africa for months and has contributed regularly and generously to World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) efforts in the region. Back in May, the U.S. approved a $14.5 million contribution to the WFP for Somalia, and pre-placed 19,000 metric tons of food aid in preparation for this emergency. In July, the U.S. government, through USAID, contributed $1.5 million to the FAO for the Somalia Food Security Nutrition and Analysis Unit (FSNAU).

If it weren't for these efforts, many million more lives -- in Kenya, in Ethiopia -- would also have been at risk.

The U.S. has stepped up to the plate because that is who we are and what we do as a nation. And I know that both the leaders and the citizens of the United States - regardless of their political leaning - continue to be wholeheartedly committed to helping the starving children and families in the drought-stricken region. They are giving generously in response to this emergency, and we urge other countries to do the same.

As we respond to yet another emergency in this part of Africa - because we know that the droughts are a recurring phenomenon in this region - we must work simultaneously to give the people living here the tools and capacity to get through future droughts without the dire consequences we are seeing now. President Obama's Feed the Future initiative - which is focused on addressing the root causes of hunger and under nutrition - is critical at this time. We must increase the resiliency of farmers and pastoralists and develop their capacity to produce drought resistant crops and breed and market livestock - such as goats, which require less water than cattle - that better thrive in dry conditions.

Over the next few days I will meet with leaders of the government of Kenya, and representatives of the many, multifaceted, humanitarian organizations on the ground who are fighting tirelessly around the clock to help as fast as they can -- in particular those wide-eyed babies.

I cherish this opportunity to reinforce the U.S. government's support and encouragement for all these efforts, and my own, personal, heartfelt gratitude.