Africa hunger crisis: WFP backs global campaign

from World Food Programme
Published on 21 Nov 2002
ROME - In response to mounting concern among the general public about the vast hunger crisis gripping the African continent, the United Nations World Food Programme today announced the creation of a global campaign to assist more than 38 million victims.
The "Africa Hunger Alert" campaign is in reaction to spontaneous grass-roots initiatives originating among student communities in the United States and Canada and that now stretch from Europe to Hong Kong. These students and community groups have committed themselves to help generate an international response to the catastrophic conditions in Africa caused primarily by shifting weather patterns, as well as by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and, in some countries, political instability and failed economic policies.

"By announcing the 'Africa Hunger Alert' campaign, WFP is signalling its commitment to link up with ordinary citizens to alert the international community to the enormity of the crisis faced by millions of innocent men, women and children who run the very real risk of death by starvation," said James T. Morris, WFP Executive Director.

"We appeal to governments, private charities, non-governmental organizations, citizens' groups and everyone who cares about fundamental human decency to join this campaign. The scope and depth of this crisis is unprecedented and it will require an unprecedented and urgent response."

The hunger crisis in Africa has grown particularly acute in the wake of two major emergencies this year - in the Southern Africa region and in the Horn of Africa. In the six countries of Southern Africa - Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique - almost 15 million people are threatened by starvation. In Ethiopia and Eritrea an additional 11-15 million are at risk - and the number could go higher.

"Without a massive response, the humanitarian community will not be able to counter these looming disasters," Morris said. "We are desperately appealing to donor countries to stave off this horrifying catastrophe, but the reality is - additional resources are scarce."

"Government aid budgets have been stretched to the limit while at the same time, drought in some grain producing countries has caused sharp price increases which means that today's aid dollar buys even fewer emergency food supplies."

WFP is just one participant in this global campaign, to be launched on 16 December and to run for at least three months. Open to everyone, WFP will provide support, including a special page its website. Information on the crisis and the initiative will be available to lobby governments.

Participating organisations will be able to promote their activities and ideas on a special "Africa Hunger Alert" bulletin board on the web page. They are also encouraged to set up web sites of their own and to join in a coalition effort to generate urgent resources. The web page will also give updates on how much money has been raised from governments and individuals and how it is being used.

To coincide with the launch event on 16 December, WFP's webpage will provide a video showing footage of the crisis across the continent and a statement by James T. Morris. This video, to be shown at various fundraiser gatherings, as well as by local and international media, will help to highlight the needs.

Morris said the international community had a special obligation to respond in the wake of the agreement by governments to implement the United Nations Millenium Goals during the special UN summit held in New York City in 2000. Among other pledges, world leaders committed themselves and their governments to halving the number of hungry people in the world to 400 million by 2015.

"Right now in Africa we are confronted with a fundamental choice," Morris said. "We no longer have the luxury of making things better. The issue is whether we can prevent the situation from getting worse. The stark fact is that 38 million human beings are threatened by starvation."

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.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Trevor Rowe, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Tel. +39-06-65132602
Francis Mwanza, Senior Public Affairs Officer, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132623
Caroline Hurford, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132330
Rene McGuffin, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132430
Christiane Berthiaume, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564
Brenda Barton, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Nairobi, Tel. +254-2-622594
Khaled Mansour, Public Affairs Officer, WFP New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196