After visiting some of Ethiopia’s most hunger-prone regions, Swiss pop star and WFP Hunger Ambassador, DJ BoBo, urged the world to continue its engagement in the Horn of Africa country to help sustain progress in combating hunger and poverty.
We must understand that there can be absolutely no development in poor countries unless we first resolve the issue of hunger
The visit to Ethiopia was DJ BoBo’s first mission as WFP’s Swiss Hunger Ambassador, ahead of him representing Switzerland in this year’s European song contest in Finland.
He visited Tigray in northern Ethiopia, which for the past 20 years has been one of the country’s most food insecure areas.
Strengthening minds and bodies
At Aid Bere School in Wukro district, he watched the preparation and serving of school meals to children of all ages and saw how, thanks to WFP’s food support, the number of children attending the school has more than doubled – from 655 to 1352 pupils – within the last three years.
“The idea behind school feeding is so simple and makes complete sense to me,” said DJ BoBo.
“The meals strengthen their minds and their bodies and make them fit and eager to learn. An educated child is more likely to know how to escape the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger. Educated children understand the importance of education and will later share this message with their own children,” he said.
In Ethiopia, school attendance is one of the lowest in the developing world. WFP is currently assisting some 630, 000 schoolchildren across the country.
In the same region, DJ BoBo also visited WFP land rehabilitation projects where guavas, oranges, cabbages and tomatoes now grow on previously infertile and eroded land.
Five years ago, WFP and the local community joined up to carry out an environmental land rehabilitation programme, which provides food to farmers in exchange for work on community infrastructures, aimed at gradually building self sufficiency and food security.
Proud of achievements
By terracing the surrounding hills and replanting trees, the community has also succeeded in conserving precious rainwater to irrigate the land.
“These villagers are rightly very proud of their achievements. It would be very hard in mountainous Switzerland to get these kinds of results at 2,000 metres above sea level and with such basic tools and no machinery. It’s fascinating to see that communities from far afield come to visit sites like these in order to reproduce the same schemes at home,” DJ BoBo said.
At total of 130,000 hectares of eroded Ethiopian land has been brought back to use and made productive through WFP’s land rehabilitation programme – in a country where 85 percent of the population rely on traditional agriculture.
In Addis Ababa, DJ BoBo visited an urban project that supports people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. “I will never forget one-year-old Seare with her deep dark brown eyes, or 15- years old Shiferaw, whose parents died of AIDS and who now lives with his grandmother,” he said.
Shiferaw’s grandmother is clearly happy. Thanks to WFP food she is now able to put a meal on the table and send him to school. Seare’s mother is still alive but has HIV/AIDS.
However, a combination of anti-retroviral drugs and nutritious food prevented the virus being transmitted from mother to child. In Amharic, Seare’s name means ‘victory’.
‘It is a real honour for WFP Ethiopia to host DJ Bobo’s first field visit, and we are very pleased to be able to show him examples of WFP’s impact in the country.
This will provide a sound basis for him to advocate on behalf of the hungry poor,” said Mohamed Diab, WFP Country Director in Ethiopia.
In 2007, WFP is planning to assist some five million of the most vulnerable men, women and children in Ethiopia.
The agency has helped hundreds of thousands of people to escape misery and malnutrition. During previous food crisis, millions have been saved from starvation.
“It’s one thing to see images of hunger and suffering on television. But it’s much more shocking to see it in reality. In Europe, I will try and mobilise public opinion. We must understand that there can be absolutely no development in poor countries unless we first resolve the issue of hunger,” DJ BoBo said.
DJ BOBO was officially nominated Swiss Hunger Ambassador to WFP in October 2006, the first Swiss celebrity to take up this role.