In response to the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is joining the Ad Council to launch a national public awareness campaign featuring Uma Thurman and Geena Davis.

Geena Davis PSA
Geena Davis PSA

The campaign encourages Americans to spread awareness of the crisis, support the humanitarian organizations conducting the relief operations, and learn more about the solutions through President Obama's Feed the Future initiative. The campaign is titled FWD, or famine, war and drought, which is an acronym for the three crises affecting the Horn.

Across the eastern Horn of Africa, more than 13 million people–a number greater than the populations of Los Angeles and New York City combined–are now in need of emergency assistance to survive. The crisis is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today, and the worst that East Africa has seen in six decades. Crops have failed, livestock have died, and high prices in local markets prevent many people from buying what is needed to feed their families. Millions of people are affected in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and in Somalia where tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the crisis.

Uma Thurman PSA
Uma Thurman PSA

“During my time at the refugee camp in Dadaab, I met with families who had walked for days or weeks, often barefoot, with no possessions, desperate to find food and medical care,” said Dr. Jill Biden. “I heard stories of loss and devastation that no family should ever have to face. But I also saw first-hand that even the smallest and simplest investments can save lives.”

However, there is hope. Through the Feed the Future initiative, the United States Government is addressing the root causes of chronic hunger by helping foster better farming, stronger markets, and greater resilience to climate shocks.

“We know that these types of crises don’t need to happen. Through Feed the Future, we are working to end hunger around the world,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “By partnering with governments, the private sector and smallholder farmers, we can help nations build resilient agricultural sectors and break the devastating cycle of food riots, famine and failed states.”

Despite the magnitude of the crisis, according to a national survey released today by the Ad Council, conducted online by Harris Interactive among 2,226 U.S. adults aged 18 and older in September 2011, over half (52 percent) of the general public say that they have not seen, heard, or read anything about the drought and famine occurring in the Horn of Africa.

The Ad Council and volunteer advertising agency R/GA have developed the multimedia campaign, which encourages all Americans to donate to the relief efforts and also spread the word or “FWD” the critical message to their friends to encourage their support.

The campaign directs audiences to text GIVE to 777444 to donate $10 to a consortium of humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa, comprised of American Refugee Committee, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, World Vision and World Food Program USA. Audiences are also directed to visit www.usaid.gov/FWD to find more information about the crisis and a listing of U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa that are accepting donations to aid in disaster relief.

“We are proud to join USAID and all of our generous corporate and media supporters to debut this critical campaign, which will encourage all Americans to support the relief efforts and ‘FWD’ the message on to help spread the word,” said Peggy Conlon, president & CEO of the Ad Council. “The American people have a history of responding in times of global crisis and I believe once we can get this on their radar, they will understand the gravity of the crisis and provide their support.”

The television and web ads feature Dr. Jill Biden and actors Uma Thurman, Josh Hartnett, Geena Davis and Chanel Iman. The campaign will also be engaging high-profile athletes such as Lance Armstrong and writer and television host Anthony Bourdain. In addition to the traditional ads, the campaign includes an extensive social media program via USAID’s Facebook and Twitter channels, as well as blogs and other sites.

Watch Geena Davis’ PSA here, and for Uma Thurman’s PSA, click here.

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