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Africa Hunger Alert campaign begins

Originally published
ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme today officially launched the Africa Hunger Alert campaign, aimed at drawing international attention to the unprecedented hunger crisis gripping the African continent where 38 million people face starvation.
The campaign represents a global response to a growing number of spontaneous grass-roots initiatives in North America, Europe and Asia. For example:

USA: the executives of American humanitarian relief organisations on 3 December unveiled "The Baltimore Declaration: Africa in Crisis," a unified pledge to act in an effort to prevent famine from taking hold in parts of Africa;

Tokyo, Japan: a concert held on 9 December and attended by more than 1,200 people was the setting of an awareness campaign designed to highlight the plight of the hungry in Africa;

France: the country's all news radio, France-Info, will devote its Monday broadcast to the hunger crisis in Africa.

St. Louis, MO, USA: students at Seckman High School have asked the surrounding community to take part in a vigil today, 16 December, to bring attention to the looming tragedy in Africa;

Newmarket, Ontario, Canada: Pickering College has invited its high school and elementary students to participate in a school-wide fast Monday to raise awareness of, and funds for, the humanitarian disaster;

Hong Kong: a lobbying campaign has begun to urge the local government to provide financial support for Africa;

"Right now, these are all individual, isolated expressions of concern and compassion which we expect to intensify and spread as the catastrophic nature of this crisis becomes more apparent to the public worldwide," said WFP Deputy Executive Director, Jean-Jacques Graisse.

"If we are to avert starvation in Africa, ordinary citizens have an important role to play. It's critical they join the campaign and urge their governments to address the needs of the hungry now before it is too late, before we have to endure the shame of seeing images of dying children on the news."

In a growing sign of concern among ordinary citizens, WFP has recently received hundreds of unsolicited online donations from people of different nationalities, all of them eager to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

As just one participant in a global campaign open to all organisations and individuals, WFP is using its website to provide information on the emergency as well as a forum for ideas. To coincide with the launch, a documentary on the hunger crisis and a statement by WFP Executive Director James T. Morris will be available to download at Participating organisations are encouraged to create their own web sites in an effort to generate urgently needed resources, and individuals are urged to lobby their governments.

The hunger crisis in Africa has grown particularly acute in the wake of two major, simultaneous emergencies in the past year. In southern Africa, almost 15 million people are threatened in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, an additional 12 to 16 million are at risk; millions more people also face starvation in Sudan, Angola, the Great Lakes region and West Africa.

These catastrophic conditions are primarily the result of drought, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and, in some countries, political turmoil and failed economic policies. Of particular concern is the new phenomenon of shifting weather patterns, causing floods and droughts. The past two years have brought the highest number of weather-related disasters over the decade.

"Progress is possible, if the political will is there," Graisse said. "To avert mass starvation we need a massive response by governments, private charities, non-governmental organisations, citizens' groups and individuals. If the relief community is not given the necessary resources to respond, the result will be a humanitarian catastrophe."

To find out more about growing hunger in Africa and the global campaign to assist more than 38 million people across the continent, go to WFP's "Africa Hunger Alert" webpage. Videos and photos are also available:

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.

For more information please contact:

Trevor Rowe
Chief Public Affairs Officer
WFP Rome
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.: + 41-22-9178564

Khaled Mansour
Public Affairs Officer
WFP New York
Tel.: +1-212-9635196