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Annan urges world’s richest countries to help Africa on hunger and AIDS

Annan urges world’s richest countries to help Africa on hunger and AIDS

Kofi Annan (right) at G8 meeting
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the world’s richest countries today to provide the resources for a strategy of “radical approaches on multiple fronts” in the battle against hunger in Africa and the devastating impact of the AIDS pandemic on food production there.

“We cannot find viable solutions to the challenge of food security unless we address the challenges of AIDS and governance at the same time,” Mr. Annan said in his opening remarks to a meeting of the contact group of the Group of 8 (G-8) most industrialized countries on food security in Africa at UN Headquarters in New York.

“The devastating impact of AIDS on food production – with seven million African farmers already dead – is only too obvious. Infection rates are rising among African women – who account for 8 out of 10 of Africa’s small farmers, and who traditionally provide the vital coping skills needed in times of food crisis. The latest figures show that women now make up 58 per cent of Africans already infected.

“Because of AIDS, skills and knowledge are dying out rather than being passed from one generation to the next. Both at the household level and the government level, resources are being diverted from food production to health care. In turn, food shortages fuel the disease, through malnutrition, poverty and inequality.”

Stressing the need to reverse the “alarming decline” in official aid for African agriculture –which dropped to $2.6 billion from $4 billion in the last decade of the 20th century – Mr. Annan said: “You, the richest Governments in the world, are among those best placed to provide those resources. Governments, both North and South, must recognize that agriculture is an essential pillar of development.”

The G-8 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States.

Mr. Annan laid out a multi-point action programme including a comprehensive approach to fighting AIDS, education for all – including more than 40 million African children currently not in school – empowering small farmers with initiatives like micro-financing, reversing the dramatic decline in publicly funded agricultural research to create a Green Revolution and dismantling agricultural subsidies in rich countries.

“Rarely has the continent had to face the kind of intersecting challenges we see today,” Mr. Annan said. “Today, Africa faces a deadly triad of related burdens – food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and an emaciated capacity to govern and provide services. And this on top of a number of conflicts that are impacting large parts of the continent.

“This interlocking set of issues facing Africa is far greater than the sum of its parts. Addressing it requires a new, integrated response from both the Governments of Africa and the international community. It requires a shift from short-term approaches to a reassessment of our entire strategy for development – or, taking long-term measures even when addressing short-term emergencies.”