Saturday, July 2, 2005

Malnutrition strikes 1 in 3 Africans: UN

One in three Africans suffers from malnutrition and a total of 852 million people in the world suffer from hunger, the United Nations says in a new report.

The World Food Program (WFP) report highlighted the plight of starving Africans and said that the financial contributions necessary for alleviating the continent's hunger problems were lacking.

The program said they had received less than 20 per cent, or $US67 million, of the $US405 million it needs for its operations in southern Africa from now until 2006.

"The WFP aims to feed 26 million victims of food crises on the continent this year because of drought, conflict, HIV/AIDS, locust infestations and economic problems," the report said.

"So far it has barely half the contributions it needs to keep these people alive and build better lives."

The report came just days before next week's G8 summit of leaders of the most industrialised countries, where African poverty is set to have a place on the agenda.

Activists have planned a string of worldwide concerts, protests and rallies in the build-up to the July 6-8 G8 summit in Scotland, designed to force world leaders to give the issue priority and to provoke action on debt, trade and aid in Africa.

The WFP report said the number of people in need of emergency food aid this year had rapidly risen from 3.5 million to 8.3 million in seven southern Africa countries, mainly because of drought.

It gave hunger figures as four million in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million in Malawi, 1.2 million in Zambia, 900,000 in Mozambique, 245,000 in Lesotho, 230,000 in Swaziland and 60,000 in Namibia.

In addition, the triple threat of HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and weakening capacity for service delivery is leaving whole societies much more vulnerable to external shocks.

Other African hunger hotspots mentioned in the report included Ethiopia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Niger.

The WFP is the largest UN humanitarian agency and it feeds around 90 million people per year, of which 56 million are children.

Stages set for the 'greatest concert ever'

Final preparations are underway for what organisers have promised will be the greatest music show on Earth, with pop stars joining forces to raise awareness of poverty in Africa.

Irish rocker and organiser Bob Geldof says he believes Saturday's Live 8 event will eclipse the Live Aid concert of 20 years ago, when 1.5 billion people tuned in to see the likes of U2, David Bowie and Mick Jagger perform to raise money for Ethiopia's famine.

This time the event is about people power, with organisers hoping huge crowds at the venues and a television and Internet audience in the billions will put pressure on world leaders meeting next week in Scotland to do more to fight poverty.

"I tell you something ... You will never see it again. It will be the greatest concert ever," Geldof told an audience of young people on the MTV channel.


In an open letter from Live 8 appearing in The Times newspaper on Saturday, organisers made a final plea to governments to meet their demands to end poverty.

"Just as people demanded an end to slavery, demanded women's suffrage, demanded the end of apartheid - we now call for an end to the unjust absurdity of extreme poverty that is killing 50,000 people every day in the 21st Century," it said.

Concerts will be held in all the Group of Eight industrialised nations, plus one in Johannesburg and another featuring African acts in south-west England.

Tokyo will open proceedings in the east and the event winds up in North America.

The initiative, costing an estimated 25 million pounds ($US45 million) to stage, has been widely praised by aid groups, and Geldof can point to a recent $US40 billion debt forgiveness deal and US pledges to double aid to Africa as signs of progress.

"We're on the way," he said.

"It's incredible to think after 20 years we're almost there."

March planned

The Live 8 concerts are linked to the Make Poverty History campaign, campaign organisers hope up to 100,000 people will march through Edinburgh on Saturday.

"There is suddenly a real chance - the sort that comes but once in a generation, for Africa to reverse its three decades of stagnation," Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Not everyone is sure Live 8 will directly affect the outcome of the G8 meeting near Edinburgh on July 6 to 8.

By Feed the World 2 July 05


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