WFP: tsunami overshadows aid for Africa's hungry

Published on 14 February 2005

Rome With 22 million people in Africa desperately short of food, WFP calls for the world to respond to the continent\'s hunger with the same commitment and compassion shown recently towards the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami.


ROME - With 22 million people in Africa desperately short of food, the United Nations World Food Programme called today for the world to respond to the continent's hunger with the same commitment and compassion shown recently towards the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Donations to WFP's operations in Africa dropped by 21 percent in January 2005 to US$24 million compared to US$29 million in the first month of 2004. Globally, contributions to WFP's work in Africa represented just eight percent of the total received by the agency, compared with 20 percent in January 2004.

"By responding so vigorously to the tsunami, the world admirably demonstrated how much it cares for millions of people facing extraordinary suffering," said WFP Executive Director James Morris.

"The challenge we now face is to ensure that a ‘tsunami effect' does not ripple across Africa, drawing funds away from humanitarian operations there and adding Sudanese, Angolan and Liberian victims to its toll. I'm sure that donors to the tsunami disaster will not allow their generosity to be at the expense of hungry people in Africa, however far from the global spotlight they are," said Morris.

The January contributions of US$24 million to WFP were for operations to help feed 22 million people with critical needs in 22 countries. These include Lesotho and Angola in the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa, Eritrea in the northeast and war-ravaged Liberia and Cote D'Ivoire in the west.

Donors to operations in Africa so far in 2005 include the United States -- which gave more than half of the contributions received -- plus Norway, Canada, Luxembourg, France, Ireland and Italy.

Despite a welcome increase of $80 million in early February, donations for Africa amount to just five percent of the US$1.9 billion needed by WFP to reach the most vulnerable and hungry people there in 2005. Overall food needs in Africa represent two thirds of WFP's global requirements.

This stands in stark contrast to the almost full funding pledged towards the UN's tsunami appeal for US$977 million, launched in January. The cost of assisting a tsunami survivor is estimated at US$1.07 per person per day in 2005 under the joint UN appeal compared with just US$0.16 per person for assistance in Africa.

For the 26 December tsunami, WFP appealed for food for up to two million people and has received full funding for that at US$0.51 per person per day.

Overshadowed by news of the tsunami and the outpouring of international assistance, the Sudanese government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed an agreement on 9 January to end Africa's longest-running civil war. Both sides to the conflict have warned that the peace could still be lost if the international community fails to help.

After donors have invested billions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Sudan over the past three decades, WFP's current emergency operation to help people return home and rebuild their lives this year is ironically funded at just 7 percent with a massive shortfall of US$279 million.

Rations for Sudanese and other refugees in Ethiopia have been slashed by 30 percent as a result of funding shortages.

In addition, in five countries across southern Africa, 5.6 million people are struggling against the triple threat of HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and their dwindling capacity to produce food. WFP has so far received less than 10 percent of the contributions needed to help them survive through 2007.

WFP was forced to cut rations for more than 2.8 million people in southern Africa in the second half of 2004 because of a shortage of funds. Many of those beneficiaries are living with HIV/AIDS and many are children - those who can least afford to miss meals, and for whom malnutrition can have irreversible consequences.

As stability returns to West Africa, there is an urgent need to restore communities and secure peace after over a decade of war. WFP's operation in Liberia is suffering from serious shortfalls and since June last year the agency has had to reduce rations for hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people. Many of them would like to go home, but with their homes and farms destroyed during the war, they will need food aid to tide them over until they can produce enough food for themselves.

There was an unprecedented response to the tsunami relief effort. It included a large number of private donors, who have not traditionally contributed so quickly and generously to humanitarian crises. In addition, governments from all over the world rapidly offered assistance, including some that receive development aid -- such as Timor-Leste and Nepal.

"Every child, no matter where they live, deserves the same care and concern," said Morris. "Whether they are in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, or Uganda and Ethiopia, children urgently need our help. I very much hope that the scale of support following the tsunami bodes well for those in need in Africa too."

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.

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