I am pleased to announce that Australia will contribute $9 million to the World Food Programme's efforts to help ease a severe food crisis in several countries in Africa.
In the Southern African region $4.5 million will provide food assistance to 8 million people facing severe food shortages in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The region is experiencing its fourth consecutive year of drought.
In the case of Zimbabwe, while Australia has in place sanctions against the Mugabe regime that includes the suspension of development cooperation, an exception continues to be made for humanitarian assistance for ordinary Zimbabweans who are the victims of their Government's human rights abuses and gross economic mismanagement.
Accordingly, the Australian Government has earmarked $2.5 million from the Southern African contribution to feed Zimbabwe's most vulnerable people who have been badly let down by their Government and whose plight is no fault of their own.
Australia's assistance for Zimbabwe is given on the basis of assurances from the World Food Programme that food aid will only be provided to the most needy people in Zimbabwe and without political interference.
Food shortages have been exacerbated by the Zimbabwe Government's 'Operation Restore Order', currently the subject of UN investigation, in which policy and officials are demolishing homes, street stalls and offices and driving hundreds of thousands of men, women and children into the countryside without food or shelter in the midst of Zimbabwe's winter. Australia has separately provided emergency relief aid through the International Organisation for Migration and CARE Zimbabwe for the victims of this particular outrage which has been condemned by the international community.
In other regions, funding of $2 million will go to Uganda, $1.5 million for Ethiopia and $1 million for Eritrea. This latest contribution brings Australia's total humanitarian assistance to Africa to $37 million since July 2004.
In Uganda, assistance will be directed to the 1.4 million internally displaced people living in camps. Nearly 80 percent of those in camps are women and children who are victims of the 18 year conflict in Northern Uganda.
In Ethiopia and Eritrea more than five million people are in need of food assistance. The two countries have long suffered from food shortages and with six consecutive years of severe drought, people are in need of both emergency assistance and drought recovery measures.
Australia's total official development assistance to Africa during 2005-2006 will be an estimated $77 million. This will be used to respond to humanitarian needs, fight the spread of HIV/AIDs and promote good governance at national and community levels, with a focus on improving delivery of basic services.
Chris Kenny (Mr Downer's office) 0419
AusAID (Public Affairs) 0417 680 590