UN holds talks on East Africa crisis

2011-07-25 12:15

Rome - A catastrophic drought in the Horn of Africa demands "massive and urgent" action from the international community, the UN food agency's chief said on Monday as emergency talks opened on the crisis.

The worst drought in 60 years has wreaked havoc on war-torn Somalia and parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, increasing pressure on world leaders to boost aid for millions of people on the brink of starvation.

"The catastrophic situation demands massive and urgent international aid," said Jacques Diouf, head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation which is hosting the meeting at its headquarters in Rome.

"It's imperative to stop the famine," said Diouf, adding that $1.6bn was needed for the next 12 months.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on donor countries for that amount in aid for two regions of southern Somalia declared famine zones by the United Nations last week.

FAO has warned the situation will deteriorate if nothing is done now.

And despite recent EU fund pledges, aid agencies say more needs to be raised, and fast.

France, which called the meeting as current head of the G20 group of leading world economies, said the international community had failed to ensure global food security.

Desperate survivors

"The international community has failed to ensure food security in the world," France's Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire told UN aid agency chiefs and charity representatives.

"If we don't take the necessary measures, famine will be the scandal of this century," Le Maire said, adding: "Our meeting is a question of life or death for tens of thousands of people."

UN officials say famine over the last few months killed tens of thousands of people, forcing desperate survivors to walk for weeks in search of food and water.

Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof joined activists in urging the international community to come up with more aid relief for famine victims, in a letter published Monday ahead of the meeting.

Geldof and other celebrities, such as actress Kristin Scott Thomas and director Richard Curtis, attacked countries such as France, Italy, the Arab States and Germany.

They accused them of having "so far given miniscule amounts of money to prevent people dying from hunger".

Long-term solutions

Aid agencies have also had trouble delivering supplies to the epicentre of the famine in southern Somalia, which is controlled by the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist group Shabaab who last year declared it off-limits to foreign agencies.

The Rome-based World Food Programme (WFP) said it would begin airlifts of food aid to the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday.

There would also be airlifts to the Ethiopian town of Dolo on the border with Somalia and to the town of Wajir in northern Kenya, WFP's head Josette Sheeran said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Saturday it had already managed to distribute 400 tons of food in southern Somalia, enough for 4 000 families or about 24 000 people.

The meeting will address not only immediate aid, but long-term solutions for the crisis - such as assistance to livestock farmers, the introduction of more drought-resistant crops and measures to control food price volatility.

  • Badballie - 2011-07-25 12:38

    The Western worlds first responsibility is to the poor and hungry in their own countries, only after that can Africa's problem even be considered, Africa has been quick to point out that the Colonial West is the root of all its problem they there fore do not deserve or qualify for any aid

  • Angel - 2011-07-25 13:31

    I do not believe help should be given by the Colonial West, peoples of Africa blame the West for everything and then demand food and money from the West. Time that Africans are forced get up and do something, while the West is giving, they do not have to do anything ..... only accept handouts. Attitude of 'gimme gimme'/'I want' will never stop if the world keeps on providing. (I am from Africa)

  • daboss247365 - 2011-07-25 13:36

    Quick question? what is the real crisis? the fact that people are dying due to famine, or the fact that they outbred their resources & are now the natural part of a known cause - effect system? If any organism, from amoeba, to human, increases in population faster than its environment can support it, this is bound to happen. standard 5 biology anyone? foodchains / predator prey systems? sustainability? So yes, those commenting may see me as a closed minded, selfish cold hearted individual, but do you guys honestly think, that even when help comes, & we rescue these people, that they wont simply restart the process again? Adding to that look at the situation in Somalia. there is no government, no morals, no control, no society or social fiber. Face it... sad as it sounds, these people are not intended to survive. they cannot be helped as they should never have been.

      daboss247365 - 2011-07-25 13:39

      I just do not, quiet frankly, feel sorry for them in any way. I think anyone who has travelled to those parts of africa, & actually experienced the mentality, the attitude & the mindset, will agree with me that that many of them simply cannot be fixed or rehabilitated. PS, Its not a race issue, but one of mentality. there is a reason why that place is a complete & utter failure, & that reason is lies with the intellect (or lack thereof) of that population.

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