American contributions to African famine relief have exceeded by far the response to any previous global emergency, but there are signs that the outpouring is slowing.
Spokesmen for some of the private relief organizations working in Ethiopia, Sudan and other drought-stricken African nations say that donations have dropped off since the end of the year after the surge that followed widely publicized reports on the famine last October.
Americans have given more than $60 million so far for the African relief effort, according to estimates supplied by the private groups.
"By mid-January, it had really dropped off," said Chris Cartter, associate director of Grassroots International. He estimated that since October, his organization, which is funneling aid to rebel areas in northern Ethiopia, had received about $550,000, with the bulk of the money raised by the end of December.
Other organizations, particularly those receiving funds from church congregations, said their contributions remain strong.
"Things have slowed a little bit, but they haven't slowed to the point of having dropped off," said Beth Griffin, a spokeswoman for Catholic Relief Services, the major coordinator of relief efforts in Ethiopia among the U.S. volunteer agencies.
The organization works through local Catholic parishes, she noted, and while "individual contributions have slowed a bit, people are giving through groups such as parish and community groups."
The Catholic group has raised about $30 million through last week, including $7 million that was raised by the American bishops in parish collections.
Likewise, Lutheran World Relief has experienced "no appreciable drop," said the Rev. Rollin Shaffer, a retired pastor who is helping the relief effort. In December alone, the latest month for which figures were available, the Lutheran organization allocated $2.9 million for the purchase of trucks and food in Africa, he said.