Annan suggests toughter measures to tackle African famines
"There is no silver bullet but there is much we can do," wrote Annan, who last week paid a two-day visit to the largely desert nation of Niger, caught in the throes of serious famine. While there, he spoke to officials of UN relief agencies that have been accused by prominent charities of botching a poorly coordinated aid effort.
"A similar scenario of severe hunger and widespread food insecurity could still engulf some 20 million people in other areas of the Sahel, southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Erithrea, Somalia and southern Africa," Annan said.
After his visit Annan wrote there was indeed a need for "better early warning analysis," declaring that some of the international famine warning systems "failed to distinguish between 'business as usual' -- a poor country striving hard to meet its people's needs -- and the drastic emergency that the situation had in fact become."
On the response itself, Annan said it required "enough advance funding to allow governments, the UN and non-governmental organisations to take adequate preparatory measures and deploy personnel with greater speed."
The UN chief executive stressed there should be "greater emphasis on prevention" by measures aimed at avoiding famine-prone countries to get into the dire state of Niger, where the world body has estimated more than 2.5 million people in Niger are in "a vulnerable situation," including 32,000 children "in danger of dying."
"Debt relief, increased aid and measures to make the international and regional trade systems more favourable to the poor can all help encourage local agricultural production," Annan said.
As in the impoverished west African nation, where he had referred to criticism from Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors without Borders) as an "unfortunate debate" given the immediate needs, Annan wrote, "we must look in the mirror instead of pointing fingers. All the relevant actors (...) share responsibility for the crisis."
Existing organisations such as the Economic Community of West African States need to be strengthened to cope with famine threats, Annan said, and there should be an overall improvement in coordination.
"Our collective challenge is to alleviate unecessary suffering, accelerate our response and strengthen local coping mechanisms to build seamless, long-term approach to food security," he wrote.
Copyright (c) 2005 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/29/2005 09:07:42
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