24 April 2007 The African Union (AU) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today renewed their strategic partnership to fight hunger and enhance food security, education and emergency response across the continent.
Their cooperation agreement was signed in Addis Ababa by African Union Commissioner Rosebud Kurwijila and WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.
“The African Union is an important ally in our fight to ensure food security in Africa,” said Ms. Sheeran during a two-day visit to Ethiopia, her first overseas mission as chief of WFP. She voiced hope that the partnership would serve as “the wind beneath our wings” in aiming to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving global hunger by 2015.
“We will work together not only to meet the needs of the hungry but also to address the root causes of poverty and hunger,” she pledged.
More than 50 per cent of WFP’s operations are in Africa, the WFP chief noted, adding that the world’s largest food assistance organization is working on many fronts on the continent, endeavouring to save lives, improve nutrition, build human development and help children go to school.
“The African Union Commission is one of WFP’s most valuable partners,” she emphasized. “I believe that this cooperation agreement will help us together find innovative and forward-looking ways to overcome chronic food deficits and the social problems they produce.”
On Wednesday, Ms. Sheeran will travel to Sudan, where WFP currently has its biggest operation, to see first-hand the situation in the country’s south and in the war-torn Darfur region in the west.
She will meet first in Khartoum with Government officials and WFP staff after arriving in the Sudanese capital on the second leg of her three-nation trip, which will take her also to Chad.
Ms. Sheeran is then scheduled to travel to North Darfur state, where she will visit the Kassab camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) – where more than 22,000 people, mostly women, receive aid from WFP – and talk to residents, as well as distribute hand mills for grinding cereals.
More than 2 million people are displaced within Darfur or have had to flee to neighbouring Chad because of brutal fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups since 2003. At least 200,000 others have been killed in that time.
In South Darfur state, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported that unknown armed men yesterday shot at a vehicle carrying staff from an international non-governmental organization (NGO), injuring two of the staff members.
A group of young men armed with sticks also entered the Ardamata IDP camp in West Darfur yesterday, threatening residents before local police intervened. Humanitarian workers have suspended their activities at the camp.
Ms. Sheeran’s next stop on her trip will be Juba in southern Sudan, where she is slated to meet Government representatives and visit a school feeding programme supported by WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian relief organization.
Southern Sudan is attempting to rebuild itself after a comprehensive peace deal in early 2005 ended a long-running civil war between north and south in the African nation.
WFP’s Representative in Sudan Kenro Oshidari noted that the country is the agency’s biggest operation in the world. “It’s important that our new Executive Director come to view our work first-hand and to meet with some of the 5.5million people we plan to assist this year throughout the country,” he said.