Pledge of at least $672 million to prevent African famine

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A group of countries pledged at least $672 million at an international donor conference Friday to prevent a famine in the African countries around the Lake Chad Basin.

"We have now started an important process," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, whose country pledged 1.6 billion kroner ($192 million) over a three-year period to tackle "a serious humanitarian situation" in the region encompassing Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

"We expect more pledges in the future," said Brende, who co-hosted the one-day conference in Oslo with Germany, Nigeria and the United Nations. "The United States have said they would come back later" and other countries may chip in too, he added.

His German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel said Germany added 120 million euros ($127 million).

The United Nations has launched a more than $1 billion appeal for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region that are enduring the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.

Other donor countries at the conference attended by 40 countries, civil society groups and humanitarian organizations included Italy, Finland, Switzerland and Japan. The money would be channeled via the United Nations, the international Red Cross and NGOs.

"Twenty-six million people have been affected by Boko Haram and we must address the root causes," Nigeria's Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said, speaking about the Islamic extremist group that remains a serious threat to regional stability.

In Nigeria, a seven-year uprising by the group has killed more than 20,000 people, driven 2.6 million from their homes and shocked the world with the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls. After aid workers got into areas once controlled by the Islamic militants driven away by military campaigns, the suffering they left behind became clear.

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