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WFP lauds Bush - Blair aid to Africa; calls on G-8 to address hunger impact of aids

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ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme today heralded the announcement by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of a major push to save millions of people on the brink of famine in the Horn of Africa and the victims of humanitarian crises elsewhere in Africa. Yesterday's announcement at the White House brings the United States' funding for humanitarian emergencies in Africa to more than US$2 billion, and the United Kingdom's support to some US$300 million.

"Additional funds from the United States for the World Food Programme's work in Africa will answer the prayers of millions of hungry mothers and children," said James Morris, WFP's Executive Director. "It comes just in time to avert massive loss of life from hunger, especially in Ethiopia and Eritrea."

The World Food Programme requires more than US$2 billion for its relief operations in Africa this year, and before this announcement, was almost $1 billion short of that target. In the past month alone, the organization's Country Directors in Sudan, Burundi and Sierra Leone have faced the heart-wrenching choice of cutting either the number of people receiving food relief, or the size of the rations because donations could not meet the massive needs.

The United States and the United Kingdom are two of WFP's largest donors. Last year they gave US$1 billion and US$116 million respectively to help WFP reach 113 million people in 80 countries.

"President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have clearly shown how deeply they care for Africa," said Morris. "They understand how crucial it is to fight hunger if we are to succeed in the other Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty, cutting child and maternal mortality, promoting education for all children, empowering women and combating AIDS".

Morris recently returned from a visit to Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, in his role as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for humanitarian needs in southern Africa, where the combination of AIDS, bad weather and governments' growing inability to run basic social services while thousands of civil servants die each week from AIDS is crippling communities.

"HIV is quietly generating a new kind of famine in Africa that no amount of rain will solve. Life expectancy has plummeted more than 20 years in the worst-hit countries and is now at levels not seen in Europe since the Middle Ages. More than 7 million African farm workers have already died," Morris said.

"People across Africa are telling us they can't fight HIV on an empty stomach. As more and more people receive antiretroviral treatment, thanks to donations from G-8 countries, we hope that they and their families will have the food they need to stay healthy."

"It makes no sense to pay for antiretroviral treatment without making sure that AIDS patients are well nourished," Morris said.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign - For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school - a gift of hope for a brighter future.

Visit our website: www.wfp.org

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP US Liaison Office, Washington, DC: Tel: (202) 653-0010, Mob. (202) 422-3383

Greg Barrow, WFP/London, Tel: +44-207-592 9292, Mob. +44-7968-008 474

Trevor Rowe, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Mob. +1-6468241112, rowe@un.org

Brenda Barton, Deputy Director Communications, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602, Mob. +39-3472582217