Africa: Food Crisis Double Standard, 03/30/03

Africa: Food Crisis Double Standard, 03/30/03

AFRICA ACTION Africa Policy E-Journal April 9, 2003 (030409)

Africa: Food Crisis Double Standard (Reposted from sources cited below)

This posting contains excerpts from a statement to the UN Security Council on April 8 by the executive director of the World Food Program, James Morris. Mr. Morris noted that as many as 40 million Africans were in danger of starvation, while the program's appeal for donor support was $1 billion short of the request. "As much as I don't like it," he said, "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 other part of the world? We simply cannot let this stand."

The full statement by Mr. Morris is available at:

More details are available on the web site of the World Food Program's Africa Hunger Alert at:

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Africa's Food Crisis As A Threat To Peace and Security

World Food Programme (Rome)

April 8, 2003, New York

Statement to the United Nations Security Council by James T. Morris, Executive Director, World Food Programme

Mr. President, distinguished members of the Security Council:

We are all seized with the war in Iraq. On the humanitarian side, the World Food Programme has launched what may become the largest single humanitarian operation in history -- a massive intervention covering logistics, food and communications totaling $1.3 billion over six months. Reports vary on how much food Iraq's 27 million people now have. Earlier, the Iraqi Government announced that several months worth of food had been distributed, while our own national staff that has monitored the Oil for Food Program for the last decade put the figure at about a month's supply for the average family. We are all deeply concerned.

But as we meet today, there are nearly 40 million Africans in greater peril. They are struggling against starvation -- and, 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. 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 other part of the world? We simply cannot let this stand. ...

The causes of Africa's food crises remain as I described them in December - a lethal combination of recurring droughts, failed economic policies, civil war, and the widening impact of AIDS, which has damaged the food sector and the capacity of governments to respond to need. The scale of the suffering is unprecedented. The World Food Programme must somehow find $1.8 billion this year just to meet emergency food needs in Africa. That is equal to all the resources we were able to gather last year for our projects worldwide and more than the biennial budget of the UN Secretariat here in New York. Thus far, we remain nearly $1 billion short.

Continuing funding shortfalls for food emergencies in the DPRK and Afghanistan and future demands in Iraq further darken the outlook for Africa. Last year, global food aid continued to plummet, dipping below 10 million metric tons -- down from 15 million in 1999. My colleagues at FAO have found that chronic hunger is actually rising in the developing world outside China and the World Health Organization announced that hunger remains the world's number one threat to health.

Until recently it seemed that our appeals for help were just not getting through. But I have some encouraging news. First, the Secretary General has made the issue of African hunger -- especially as it relates to AIDS -- very much his own and that has energized and encouraged all of us. Second, France and the United States are working together to put African food crises on the agenda of the upcoming G8 meeting to be hosted by President Chirac in Evian in June. President Bush has announced the creation of a new $200 million fund to prevent famine and we hope that will be a down payment on a broader political commitment by the G8 and others to address food emergencies in Africa. ...

The largest single threat to Africa's food security remains drought in a continent where irrigation is rare, but AIDS, failed economic policies and political violence also have major roles in different regions.

Southern Africa

In southern Africa, and to a lesser degree in the Horn of Africa, the impact of AIDS on the political and economic structure grows daily. ... Out in rural villages, lands lie fallow because there is no one to farm them and more than 7 million African farmers have lost their lives to AIDS.

It is not hard to imagine where all of this is heading. The peak impact of the AIDS pandemic has not yet arrived in southern Africa and is not expected until 2005-2007. ...

Even if governments succeed in maintaining a fair degree of central control and political cohesion, basic services and their economies are bound to suffer. How do you turn around food production in a country that no longer has a viable agricultural extension service? How do rural children learn to farm when their parents are too sick to teach them? How do you maintain a basic educational system for children when their teachers are dying faster than new ones can be trained? President Mwanawasa of Zambia told me that they were losing 2000 teachers a year to AIDS and were able to train only 1000 a year to replace them.

Yet there are some encouraging developments as well. The latest nutritional survey by our colleagues at UNICEF show that we have been able to block a rise in malnutrition among children under five. Thus far, more than 620,000 tons of emergency food has been distributed to more than 10 million people in the region. Donors have been very generous, especially the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

The GM food issue has faded and is no longer delaying and disrupting deliveries. Five of the six countries needing aid in southern Africa are accepting processed and milled GM foods. We simply could not have reached the level of food deliveries we have now attained without the constructive problem solving undertaken.

But it would be foolish to say this crisis is over. Crop prospects are better, but more droughts are forecast and we are confronted with the real possibility of a permanent, low-grade food crisis created by AIDS. Women and girls are especially hard-hit by the disease, accounting for 60 percent of the cases and in Africa eight out of ten farmers are women. The impact is obvious. ...

WFP remains especially concerned about Zimbabwe where there have been numerous media reports that food assistance is being politicized. We are confident that this is not the case for our food and in the few instances where we have received credible reports of abuse we suspended those operations, ...

Our goal is not to politicize, but to depoliticize food aid in Zimbabwe. Food should be available to all based on humanitarian principles with any other consideration being inappropriate. That is the case everywhere we work. Hungry people cannot afford to be caught in political crossfire. There are those who would have us pull out in crisis situations to punish governments and take a stand on political or human rights issues. But WFP believes that emergency aid simply cannot be politicized -- for good or ill. When people in power, be they government or rebels, deny food aid to certain vulnerable groups of the population, we will speak out. ...

Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Sahel

The food emergency in Ethiopia has far fewer political overtones. Ethiopia has made substantial economic gains over the past several years. It cannot afford for the current crisis to produce serious economic setback. The situation in Ethiopia is a classic example of a country that receives a high per capita emergency assistance and a very small per capita development assistance. Over 11 million Ethiopians require food and other relief assistance, with another 3 million on the edge. Fortunately, the funding outlook for Ethiopia is good and we already have pledges totaling about 70 percent of needs

In Eritrea, on the other hand, the last war with Ethiopia has left a legacy, adding 900,000 displaced and economically vulnerable people to a caseload of 1.4 million who are drought-affected. While absolute numbers are far lower than in Ethiopia, two out of three Eritreans are short of food. The funding situation is grim. We must quickly find and move an additional 200,000 metric tons into Eritrea to continue and expand our programme to avoid widespread malnutrition and deaths.

In both countries, drought is the major culprit. The regional needs are really massive, far exceeding the most recent drought in 2000. The drought could lead to internal migration and a marked rise in poverty levels, but we do not see it as directly causing major political destabilization in either country.

Food security has also deteriorated in the Western Sahel -- Mauritania, Cape Verde, Gambia, Senegal and Mali -- and emergency feeding operations are desperately short of cash, at only 40 percent of requirements. While internal migration, especially rural-to-urban, is likely, immediate impacts on security and political structures do not appear likely. ...


The nexus between political violence and food shortages is still most easily illustrated in Angola where the humanitarian situation remains serious. Our job is to help with the economic recovery of the poorest and the maintenance of the peace. After the peace agreement was signed a year ago, WFP's caseload rose sharply from 1 to 1.8 million people. Large numbers of displaced or isolated people can now be reached, but the fact that much of the country is littered with land mines still makes access difficult and undercuts food production as vast stretches of land are not yet safe for cultivation. More of the millions of refugees and IDPs are returning home at a rate higher than aid agencies anticipated, further straining the systems we have in place. Angola is no doubt a wealthy country with great potential and now capable of doing far more for its citizens, but food and other aid remain crucial for the near future.

Africa's Refugees and IDPs.

Destroying food supplies and driving people from their lands have long been techniques in war. We have seen them used in recent years in Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, and in Cote d'Ivoire, where more than 1 million people have been displaced. Despite some progress in the last few years, large pockets of refugees and IDPs remain a continuing source of political friction, violence and insecurity in Africa. Large concentrations of refugees and IDPs often degrade the environment, further aggravating relations with indigenous groups. All told, WFP is feeding 1.8 million refugees and 5.7 million IDPs and returnees in Africa operations totaling $166 million. But donors have not stepped in forcefully enough. In West Africa, for example, emergency operations to feed IDPs and refugees in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire are facing a shortfall of 40 percent.

The political and security situation in West Africa has been in deep crisis for years. Liberia is once again at the epicenter of a conflict that could continue to spread. With no sustainable political solution in sight in Liberia, the humanitarian situation there is expected to remain critical through 2003 and will impact on neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone. Moreover with violence and conflict escalating in western Cote d'Ivoire, the already precarious humanitarian situation risks to deteriorate even further and reach regional dimensions. ...

UNHCR and WFP have warned that the fate of more than 1.2 million refugees in Africa is uncertain due to a lack of funding for much-needed food aid. We urgently need more funds in the next several months to avert severe hunger among refugees. (The mid- February shortfall was $84 million.) Some refugees are already receiving only half of their normal monthly food rations. Meanwhile, stocks of several food commodities are running out. Major interruptions in the food pipeline are feared in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria and Sudan, Africa's main refugee-hosting nations. ...

Steps We Can Take Now

We had a very fruitful preparatory meeting for the G8 here in New York last month that is helping us shape some ideas for future action. Preventing and responding to food crises in Africa requires commitment by a range of actors, especially Africans themselves. For instance, domestic economic policies that work against the African farmer and create disincentives for agricultural production will need to be reversed. Global trade policies of the rich industrial nations that have a direct negative impact on agricultural production of developing countries should likewise be reversed.

Director General Diouf of FAO, President Bage of IFAD and I offered our shared view that a two-track approach must be taken in Africa We must consider simultaneously the needs of the 40 million Africans living with threat of starvation and the nearly 200 million Africans who suffer quietly from chronic hunger far from the attention of the media.

We can make significant progress with modest investments. While our proposals are not yet finalized, for its part, WFP plans to call on the G8 and its members states for:

1. A far stronger donor commitment to emergency food aid based on better targeting and more sophisticated early warning systems;

2. A substantial increase in support for investment in basic agricultural infrastructure, both micro and macro, especially irrigation infrastructure, but also roads and markets, and the need to make agricultural work easier for women. After all, they do 80 percent of the work. We also need to focus on more energy efficient devices and need to make timely investments in implements, seeds and fertilizer. Crucial is a long-term drive to deal with Africa's water issues, introduce improved technologies, promote policy reforms, invest in micro-enterprises, and strengthen nutrition through school feeding and other projects to reach the vulnerable. ...

3. A firm commitment by donors to full funding of all African emergency food aid operations based on joint FAO/WFP needs assessments. We are looking a famine risk insurance schemes and other mechanisms to move us in that direction more quickly. To maximize effectiveness, the longer-term development programmes of WFP and other UN agencies in water, sanitation, health, agriculture and education programmes will need far stronger support;

4. Funding of a $300 million African Food Emergency Fund that would be an immediate response account that can be used at the very outset of a food crisis. Fast access to cash to buy food locally/regionally, hire transport, set up communications, and to fill breaks in food aid pipelines would vastly strengthen the speed with which WFP can respond. We will encourage other UN agencies to seek similar immediate response accounts. We have repeatedly seen, most recently in southern Africa and the Horn of Africa, that donations to meet nonfood needs -- clean water, medicines, seeds -- materialize at an even slower rate than those for food. The non-food items are every bit as important as food and deserve the thoughtful consideration of the donor community. We need to move faster on all fronts.

5. Create a facility to encourage donations from nontraditional donors, especially developing countries. India, for example, has more than 60 million metric tons in cereals surpluses. We have been offered 1 million tons -- but we need to find partners to provide cash for transport and management. Cash contributions made in this way can leverage considerably more food aid for hungry people. For example, a cash contribution of $20 million could leverage a donation of 100,000 metric tons from South Africa for drought victims in Zambia. This transaction would otherwise cost around $40 million. New donors, both traditional and non-traditional, substantial participation of the private sector and innovative concepts such as "twinning" are critical.

6. Provide modest funds to work with Africa Governments and other partners improve vulnerability mapping, early warning and preparedness measures. Help us and our African partners sharpen capacities in needs assessments and nutrition surveillance, and move aggressively into food fortification and other nutritional activities, especially ones designed to address the nutritional impact of AIDS.

7. Finally, we will call on the donor community for a major investment in Africa's children. The long-term future of Africa will depend greatly on a well-nourished, educated and skilled workforce. WFP would like to work in partnership with NEPAD to get all primary school-aged African children to attend school through support for school feeding activities. An initial annual investment of $300 million in school feeding, to be gradually increased to $2 billion a year by 2015, would permit WFP to support the Education for All initiative and reach most of the 40-50 million out-of school children. We are especially grateful for recent commitments from Switzerland and Canada for school feeding in Africa. In fact, Canada has committed 75 million Canadian dollars over three years in support of school feeding in five African countries. As much as we can, WFP procures commodities locally and/or regionally to stimulate local production, adhere to local food habits and ensure long-term sustainability. School feeding also allows to support policies introducing the supplementation of iodine, vitamin A and iron in the diet of children. For pennies, a child's life can be substantially improved. The impact in terms of nutrition, health, and education - especially for girls - are tremendous: enrollment rates, performance scores and access to secondary schooling soar while girl-child marriages and early pregnancies decrease. For me, the concept of empowerment of women could not be more tangible. School feeding is the single best vehicle to address the Millennium Development Goal to cut poverty and hunger by half. ...

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Date distributed (ymd): 030409 Region: Continent-Wide Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2003 21:06:59 -0500 Subject: Africa: Food Crisis Double Standard

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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