A group of celebrities led by Hollywood actor Ben Stiller has joined a social media campaign to send food and water to Somalia through Turkish Airlines.
Last weekend, the group raised more than $1 million online in less than 24 hours. Stiller said in a Twitter message posted Monday that the money has been used to purchase 60 tons of food that the airline will fly to Somalia next week.
Somali diaspora youth groups have been spearheading a similar movement online, following warnings from the U.N. that more than six million Somalis are at risk of severe malnourishment and starvation because of drought.
Celebrities got involved at the urging of French Snapchat star Jerome Jarre, who launched a movement called Love Army for Somalia last Wednesday.
After the group began raising donations online, they convinced Turkish Airlines to help deliver one immediate aid shipment to Somalia’s most vulnerable people, prompting the airline to create a Twitter hashtag, #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia.
Celebrities who have made donations include American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, NBA player Wilson Chandler, YouTube star Casey Niestat and Scottish record producer Calvin Harris.
“And Jerome wants to keep this thing going, because he believes we can raise a lot more money and do a lot more good and really make a dent in what’s going on over there,” Stiller said Monday.
Total donations had risen to more than $1.8 million as of Monday, according to the “Love Army for Somalia” site on GoFundMe, a social fundraising platform.
“For the first flight, we will buy the food in Istanbul, as a thank you to our Turkish friends that support the movement!” said a message on the page. “Later on, we are hoping to learn how to buy food directly from local businesses in Somalia. We want to support the Somalian economy.”
Turkish Airlines was the first carrier outside East Africa to establish regular service to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Turkey has become one of the most prominent donors in Somalia, eclipsing many traditional donors both in quantity and quality of its assistance.
Likewise, Ankara has become a major trading partner with Somalia, particularly in the construction, transportation and service sectors, according to a report by Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based research group.