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Sweden: Jan O. Karlsson on the food crisis in southern Africa

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At a press meeting during political week at Almedalen in Visby, Gotland, today, Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy Jan O. Karlsson spoke about the acute food crisis in southern Africa. The crisis is worse than had previously been anticipated, but Sweden and a number of international institutions are prepared to take action as soon as the collective UN appeal is presented. The United Nations is expected to present its appeal on 15 July but has already released the preliminary news that it will be in the region of SEK 5 -- 6 billion.

"13 million people, 2.3 million of whom are children under the age of 5, are in danger of being affected if the countries at risk and the rest of the world do not act decisively to prevent the threatening food crisis. This is naturally about food, but also about managing its transport and distribution, and about health care. The political will for governments to work together is also necessary so that political disagreement and bureaucracy do not obstruct relief work," says Mr Karlsson.

"It is important that the main responsibility lies with the United Nations so that the relief efforts are coordinated. Sida has already taken the decision, therefore, to allocate SEK 50 million to provide support as quickly as possible. The Government is prepared to consider decisions on further economic resources if necessary," says Mr Karlsson.

"The current crisis is not solely a matter of drought and weather conditions. Political mismanagement, poverty and HIV/AIDS have made the situation considerably worse. It is not simply a coincidence that Zimbabwe is the most badly hit. If we do not tackle these problems on a long-term basis, we can be sure that the food crisis will recur. Sweden recently adopted a regional strategy for southern Africa, a strategy that includes directing attention at these problems," says Mr Karlsson.

Martin Sandgren
Political Adviser
Acting Press Secretary
08-405 31 77
0708-608484