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Member States have treaty obligations to help Horn of Africa – UN envoy

Member States have treaty obligations to help Horn of Africa – UN envoy

Children at a relief camp near Wajid, Somalia
The United Nation’s independent envoy on hunger today called on Member States to honour their obligations under a global treaty to help the 11 million people threatened with starvation in the Horn of Africa.

Jean Ziegler, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said in a statement released in Geneva that under the terms of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, States Parties are obligated to respond quickly to emergency food situations in the territory of a Member State.

Mr. Ziegler also called on the Governments of the troubled countries – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania – to work with UN agencies to develop policies and programmes that will deal with the drought issue over a long-term basis.

Mr. Ziegler, of Switzerland, was appointed as an independent, unpaid expert by the UN Commission on Human Rights in September 2000. As Special Rapporteur, his job is to ensure that governments are meeting their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food of all people.

Coupled with the impact of past and ongoing manmade conflicts, the Horn of Africa’s severe drought has led to acute shortages of water and food, the decimation of grazing lands and cereal production, and the death of large numbers of cattle. All of this has adversely affected the livelihoods of the region’s pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.

Pre-famine conditions are increasingly being reported throughout the region and earlier this month, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed for $16 million to expand its relief efforts in the region and said 1.5 million children under the age of five were being affected.

According to information received last month, up to 150,000 people in Djibouti, mainly pastoralists, are threatened as the drought degrades pastures and dries up water points. In Ethiopia, about 1.75 million people, in addition to the 5.5 million people already receiving food assistance, have been impacted by failed rains and need humanitarian assistance. In Kenya, 3.5 million people are running out of food as the rains fail, tripling the number of people in need of emergency assistance.

At the same time in Somalia, about 2 million people are facing an acute food and livelihood crisis while 3.7 million people in Tanzania are at risk of a food shortage because the short rains have failed.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Humanitarian Envoy, Kjell Magne Bondevik, is scheduled to arrive in the Horn of Africa tomorrow for a three-day visit with national and UN officials in the five countries in crisis: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya.

The former prime minister of Norway, Mr. Bondevik will also visit drought-affected regions, all in an effort to help strengthen local and global efforts to tackle the devastating humanitarian crisis.