UN agency urges increased aid for West Africa to safeguard fragile peace process

UN agency urges increased aid for West Africa to safeguard fragile peace process

Warning that the absence of headline-grabbing battles now risked pushing three West African countries under the humanitarian radar and undermining nascent peace efforts, the United Nations emergency feeding agency has called on the world community to bolster support for one million people struggling to emerge from the devastation of war.

“For the situation to remain stable in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the world must commit to helping people reconstruct a normal life,” World Food Programme (WFP) Senior Deputy Executive Director Jacques Graisse told a weekend conference in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital.

The conference, sponsored by the Italian Government, brought together representatives of African nations, UN agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs) and the donor community to review the region’s humanitarian needs.

“The steps towards peace are both impressive and inspiring,” Mr. Graisse said. “But unless the most basic needs of food, shelter and income are met, stability cannot take root.”

WFP has been assisting some 900,000 people in all three countries where social and economic infrastructures as well as agriculture have been ravaged by war. The agency is also deeply concerned about the current unrest in Côte d’Ivoire and its potential regional impact. In January, WFP will launch a two-year $155-million programme.

To date donors have contributed $61.3 million towards the agency’s $81.6 million West Africa operation for 2004.

“The humanitarian needs in these countries are immense,” Mr. Graisse said. “With all the crises in the world today, it is easy to overlook Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where headline-grabbing conflict has ended. But this would be exactly the wrong time to neglect this sub-region. It is up to the world community to secure this peace.”