40 million Africans on brink of starvation, Security Council told
With international attention focused on the humanitarian situation arising from the conflict in Iraq, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today urged the Security Council not to forget the 40 million Africans in greater peril of starvation.
"Commitments to humanitarian aid are political choices and this Council is the most important political forum in the world. There is so much each of you can do to focus the attention and resources on the food crises now engulfing much of sub-Saharan Africa," Executive Director James Morris said during a Council meeting on Africa's food crisis as a threat to peace and security.
In his briefing, which covered his recent trip to southern Africa and provided an outlook on the food situation in Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Sahel and West Africa, Mr. Morris noted that while a massive intervention covering the needs in Iraq has been launched for a total of $1.3 billion over the next six months, the average family in that country still has about a month's supply of food. "I can assure you, these 40 million Africans, most of them women and children, would find it an immeasurable blessing to have a month's worth of food," he said.
Mr. Morris also noted that WFP is feeding 1.8 million refugees and 5.7 million internally displaced people and returnees in Africa, but donors have not stepped in forcefully. He warned that the fate of an additional 1.2 million refugees on the continent - some of whom were already receiving only half of their normal monthly food rations - is similarly uncertain due to funding shortages.
"As much as I don't like it, I cannot escape the thought that we have a double standard. How is it we routinely accept a level of suffering and hopelessness in Africa we would never accept in any part of the world? We simply cannot let this stand," the WFP chief said.
Reiterating previous comments, Mr Morris stressed that Africa's food crises were a result of "a lethal combination of recurring droughts, failed economic policies, civil war and the widening impact of AIDS, which damaged the food sector and the capacity of governments to respond to need."
The WFP chief suggested several steps that could be taken to redress the situation, including domestic economic policies, global trade policies and stronger donor commitment. Mr. Morris said last month's meeting with the Group of Eight wealthiest nations (G8) was fruitful and was helping shape some ideas for future action.