Underlining the crucial role of food aid in the peace building and recovery process, Morris urged the Government of Angola, with its current chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the private commercial sector and international donors, to support WFP projects aimed at alleviating the suffering of millions of Angolans which also build opportunities for food security.
"WFP can do a tremendous amount to help the Angolan population get back on their feet after decades of despair, and we must seize this opportunity," said Morris. "What's needed is a constellation of committed partners, including our traditional donors, working together to tackle the immense tasks which lie ahead to assist millions of vulnerable people."
During his first visit to Angola since being appointed WFP Executive Director in 2002, yesterday Morris met with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, various government ministers and the UN heads of agencies.
Today he hosted a meeting with a number of top executives representing major companies operating in Angola to discuss possibilities for future cooperation in the food aid and recovery effort.
Morris' trip comes at a time when humanitarian agencies face significant challenges in Angola, such as the ongoing effort to ensure that food aid is delivered to a growing number of fragile communities. While the number of WFP beneficiaries in the country averages 1.74 million, a recent vulnerability study indicates that the number of people in need of food aid may grow as high as 2.4 million in the lead-up to the April/ May 2003 harvest.
Logistical problems - broken bridges, poorly maintained roads, and the widespread presence of landmines - greatly hamper the delivery of food to tens of thousands of needy people. The rainy season has compounded the neglect of the infrastructure, worsening access to areas where people are living or have recently resettled.
A chronic lack of resources to meet the needs of an increasing number of hungry Angolans is also putting the population at risk. WFP has less than half of the necessary resources to keep its operations afloat through 2003. Food stocks are low and unless further donations are rapidly pledged, a disruption in distributions could occur by the end of April.
Morris said Angola is not immune to the lethal combination of HIV/AIDS and food shortages which represents potential disaster for many African countries. He warned against the devastation he personally witnessed being wreaked across southern Africa, creating millions of orphans and destroying the agriculturally productive community.
Earlier this week Morris and UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, urged the world to galvanize immediate and urgent response to the twin calamity. Before coming to Angola, Morris and a team of senior UN officials traveled to four countries in southern Africa in his capacity as the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs.
Tomorrow Morris will travel to the central Province of Bié, where WFP food aid operations presently benefit 280,000 people, mainly children and women. Morris will interact with internally displaced people in the hard-hit area of Kuito; a city devastated by three decades of war and will see how food aid is supporting projects such as a community kitchen for hungry children.
Since the cessation of hostilities between the Angolan Government and UNITA forces in April 2002, WFP has been able to reach over 70 previously inaccessible areas in the country. The arrival of large quantities food aid has prevented thousands of Angolans from starving, and has prompted a sharp decline in malnutrition rates.
"There is so much important work to be done to help rebuild this country, including educating children, training teachers, and constructing schools," said Morris. "The new school year starts next week in Angola, and it is tragic that children have nowhere to go."
"Educating children and fighting HIV/AIDS are crucial to helping consolidate the long-awaited peace process, and building a better tomorrow for millions of people," said Morris. "We continue to be deeply committed to the poor and hungry in Angola, but need immense support by a variety of partners in order to succeed."
To find out more about growing hunger in Africa and the global campaign to assist more than 38 million people across the continent, go to WFP's "Africa Hunger Alert" webpage. Videos and photos are also available: www.wfp.org/AfricaHungerAlert.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2001, WFP fed more than 77 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
For more information please contact:
Marcelo Spina Hering, Public Affairs
Officer, WFP/Luanda, Tel. +244-2-310027, ext. 5221 or mobile: +244-91-503197
Richard Lee, WFP Public Affairs Officer, WFP/Johannesburg, Tel. +27 83 460 1787
Francis Mwanza, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602
Christiane Berthiaume, Public Affairs Officer, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564
Khaled Mansour, Public Affairs Officer, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-917-3029325
Brenda Barton, Public Affairs Officer (traveling with Mr. Morris), Tel. +244-91-215007