Humanitarian organizations launch global campaign to avert famine in Africa

from Mercy Corps
Published on 05 Dec 2002
More than 34 million at risk of starvation in Africa
BALTIMORE, Maryland - Executives of American humanitarian relief organizations, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development gathered today to launch a coordinated global campaign to assist more than 34 million people at risk of starvation in Africa. The leaders unveiled The Baltimore Declaration: Africa in Crisis, a unified pledge of the non-governmental organizations and the WFP to act in an effort to prevent famine from taking hold in parts of southern, eastern and western Africa.

The Declaration also appealed to "governments, citizens' groups, private voluntary organizations, religious institutions and individual citizens to recognize the enormity of the crisis confronting Africa and to join in a massive and urgent response."

"This is truly an historic and unique gathering and we, the heads of 15 relief organizations, come together with the WFP and the U.S. government to commit ourselves to this Declaration and to averting a famine in Africa," said Ken Hackett, Executive Director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which hosted the meeting at its world headquarters in Baltimore. "We plan to carry this out with full intensity."

Countries throughout Africa are currently facing severe food shortages as a result of a convergence of multiple factors, some natural, like drought and floods, and some man-made, like government policy. In eastern (Ethiopia and Eritrea) and southern (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland) Africa, as well as in the Sahel of western Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), more than 34 million people are facing food insecurity for the next 6 to 8 months.

"We commit ourselves to mobilizing our own organizations and joining with people of good will everywhere in providing the resources required to stave off this looming disaster," the Declaration said. "At the same time, we call upon governments in food insecure countries, donor governments, and the entire international development community to take the necessary steps to avert future crises of this nature."

If increased shipments of food aid are not delivered in time, African populations will face conditions similar to the Ethiopia famine of 1984-85, the international relief organizations contended.

"This is an unprecedented crisis, which calls for an unprecedented response," said James Morris, executive director of the World Food Program and United Nations Special Envoy for the Humanitarian Crisis in southern Africa. "The magnitude of the disaster unfolding in Africa has not yet been fully grasped by the international community. An exceptional effort is urgently needed if a major catastrophe is to be averted. Business as usual will not do."

The humanitarian leaders noted that the effects of famine will be even more devastating than 20 years ago, as African nations are now battling an unrelenting HIV/AIDS pandemic. Sub-Saharan Africa, with only 10 percent of the world's population, is home to 70 percent of the world's HIV-positive people. Malnutrition accelerates the onset of AIDS and those infected with the disease require 30 to 50 percent greater caloric intake than others.

"What we now see in Africa is a looming crisis of great proportion," Hackett said.

The non-governmental organizations - including Mercy Corps - represented at the gathering are members of the Coalition for Food Aid, a group of 15 American relief and development agencies involved in food assistance programs overseas. Member organizations provide direct emergency food aid, and carry out programs in agriculture and natural resource management, small enterprise, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS and education.

Mercy Corps continues to provide critical food assistance to 35,000 schoolchildren in Eritrea. Additionally, the agency is coordinating with partner agencies providing food aid in southern Africa.

Donate online to Mercy Corps' relief efforts in Africa or:

Mercy Corps
Southern Africa Food Crisis
Dept. W
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208

1-800-852-2100 ext. 250