LONDON, March 21 — Hollywood actor Ben Stiller has teamed up with social media stars to raise US$2 million (RM8.85 million) for people facing starvation in Somalia amid a devastating drought.
The Zoolander actor is now trying to recruit other celebrities including Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, Beauty and the Beast actress Emma Watson and model Carla Delevingne to support the Love Army for Somalia initiative which has already raised over US$1.8 million since Friday.
An initial flight will take off next Monday with 60 tonnes of food for Somalia where more than six million people — about half the population — need help.
The United Nations is warning that Somalia risks slipping back into famine as worsening drought leaves millions without food, water or healthcare in a country crippled by decades of war.
The campaign began when Stiller’s friend, Vine and Snapchat personality Jerome Jarre, recorded a message on Twitter in which he pleaded with Turkish Airlines — that flies directly to Somalia — to fill one of its flights with food.
Stiller then recorded his own Twitter message urging the airline to take up the challenge.
“It’s kind of a crazy idea,” Stiller said in the video. “But I think it could work... and it could create a snowball effect to get people to take action.”
The group, which is raising money through fundraising platform GoFundMe, said Turkish Airlines had quickly come on board with a full cargo plane and the offer of shipping further deliveries to Somalia on its commercial aircraft.
Others kickstarting the movement include American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick and YouTube phenomenon Casey Neistat.
“This is the story of what can happen when the power of social media is leveraged for something good,” Neistat said in a YouTube video.
The group had originally planned to raise US$1 million, but doubled the figure after hitting their target within 24 hours.
Love Army for Somalia said rice, cooking oil, nutritional biscuits, flour, sugar and porridge would be distributed by the American Refugee Committee, a charity already working in Somalia. The funds will also be used to pay for water trucks.
Stiller said in a follow-up video he wanted each person who had donated to nominate three others to join the movement, and said his own nominations were Lewis, Watson and Delevingne.
Famine last struck pockets of Somalia in 2011, killing 260,000 people. It was caused by drought, conflict and a ban on food aid in territory held by al Shabaab. — Thomson Reuters Foundation