With world focus on Niger, Belgium donates to neglected African crises

Published on 18 August 2005

Brussels - WFP welcomes a cash donation of five million euros from Belgium which will allow the agency to provide urgently needed food to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Niger, Mali, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

WFP today welcomed a cash donation of five million euros from Belgium which will allow WFP to provide urgently needed food to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Niger, Mali, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

This contribution doubles the Belgian government’s assistance to WFP so far this year, bringing it to a total of 9.63 million euros.

“This is one of the largest contributions ever made by the Government of Belgium to WFP’s operations around the world and reflects an increasing and ever stronger partnership between WFP and Belgium in the fight against hunger,” said James T. Morris, WFP Executive Director.

The 5-million-euro contribution follows concerns expressed by the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation, Armand De Decker, during a meeting in June with Morris, that more high profile crises, such as the tsunami catastrophe, had drawn attention away from acute problems in Africa.

While Belgium is joining forces in the fight against hunger in Niger by allocating one million euros to help alleviate the suffering of 2.6 million people, it is also answering WFP’s call not to forget the plight of the surrounding countries which are also suffering from the consequences of drought and the worst locust invasion in 15 years.

Millions of people in the Sahel region, who are far away from the cameras, are suffering from similar problems as in Niger and Belgium has responded to this crisis with a 400,000 euros donation for WFP’s operations in Mali.

In the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), WFP and Belgium will combine forces to help feed 1.1 million people, mostly in North and South Kivu as well as in Ituri where atrocities against civilians – including rape of women and girls and kidnapping for ransom – are routinely conducted by armed militia and bandits. In order to help bring peace to eastern DRC, part of the new Belgian contribution will be used to provide food rations to demobilized combatants and their families.

Following concerns expressed by Minister De Decker on the plight of “forgotten” refugee populations, Belgium will also provide assistance to Burundian and Congolese refugees in western Tanzania, where the WFP operation has been facing a severe funding crisis, forcing it to reduce rations since last year.

Referring to new support for crises in Zimbabwe, Malawi and southern Sudan, James Morris commended Belgium’s willingness to look once again beyond its traditional development cooperation partners to countries facing acute problems of hunger, adding that “with these new cash contributions, WFP will be able to respond rapidly to the urgent needs of tens of thousands of people who rarely get the attention they deserve - people who do not live in high-profile crises that get media attention and where WFP is most often poorly funded.”

Southern Africa is facing its worst harvest since 2002 following a severe drought. Preliminary estimates indicate that 7 to 10 million people could be in need of food assistance this year, especially in Zimbabwe and Malawi. A lethal combination of drought, HIV/AIDS and food insecurity is putting the lives of millions of people at risk.

WFP’s operation in south Sudan aims to feed 3.2 million people who are victims of drought as well as returnees wishing to go back home after the signing of a peace agreement in January which ended the longest civil war in Africa. Without food assistance these people will not be able to return and rebuild their communities.

So far Belgium has already contributed this year to WFP’s operations in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 56 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.

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For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Brenda Barton

Deputy Director Communications
WFP/Rome
Tel. +39-06-65132602
Mob. +39-3472582217

Christiane Berthiaume

WFP/Geneva
Tel. +41-22-9178564
Mob. +41-792857304

Gregory Barrow

WFP/London
Tel. +44-20-72409001
Mob. +44-7968-008474

John Aylieff, Director

WFP/Brussels
Tel. +32-2-5000910
Mob. +32 496 266665