Dikembe Mutombo has a long history of philanthropic work, highlighted by the construction of a $29 million, 300-bed hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his native country. Mutombo was awarded the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 and was named the NBA’s global ambassador in 2009.
On Thursday, along with Cindy McCain, singer K’Naan, ONE (an organization that fights famine and preventable disease) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Mutombo held a conference call to discuss famine in the Horn of Africa. The group was speaking from Nairobi, after visiting a Somali refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya earlier in the day.
According to a ONE press release from earlier this month…
In recent weeks, the UN has declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia, due to what is being called one of the worst droughts in the past 60 years. This has left more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa – greater than the populations of Houston and New York City combined- desperately in need of food, emergency agricultural assistance, clean water and basic sanitation.
The group spoke of children at the camp in Dadaab who were living without proper nutrition or medical care, and ultimately living without hope.
“People feel as though they’ve been left there,” K’Naan, a Somalia native, said, “that they’re forgotten.”
Kenna, McCain and Mutombo expressed the need for people to not only donate to the cause, but to spread the word and raise awareness regarding a situation that isn’t going away. The Guardian recently reported that about 1,400 Somalis arrive in Dadaab every day.
“How many more children have to die,” Mutombo asked, “before we react?”
You can help by signing a petition asking world leaders to address the UN’s call for emergency assistance funding and/or visiting futurefortified.org to make a donation toward the cause.
“Ten dollars is going to go a long way within these camps,” McCain said.
Next week, Mutombo will join Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and several more former players and current coaches as part of Basketball without Borders Africa 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The camp is for the continent’s top 18-and-under players, but goes well beyond basketball, promoting life skills and participating in several community outreach events.