GREATEST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS TODAY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME HEAD TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

30 June 2005
SC/8433

GREATEST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS TODAY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME HEAD TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

30/6/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8433

Security Council

5220th Meeting (AM)

GREATEST HUMANITARIAN CRISIS TODAY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA,

 

WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME HEAD TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

Describes ‘Lethal Mix’ of AIDS, Drought, Failing Governance;

Says Hunger Playing Critical Part in Disintegration of Social Structures

The greatest humanitarian crisis today was not in Darfur, Afghanistan or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but in Southern Africa, where a lethal mix of AIDS, recurring drought and failing governance was eroding social and political stability, James T. Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) told the Security Council this morning.

In a briefing on Africa’s food crisis as a threat to peace and security, Mr. Morris, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in the subregion, said that hunger was playing a critical part in the gradual disintegration of Southern Africa’s social structures.  Last year alone, AIDS had killed a million people there and on average, life expectancy had plummeted by 20 years.  Children in North America, Europe and Japan could expect to live twice as long as those in Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe.  In fact, life expectancy in much of Southern Africa was barely more than it had been in Europe during the Middle Ages.

HIV prevalence ranged from a low of 12 per cent in Mozambique to 42 per cent in Swaziland, he said, and in 2003 alone, Lesotho had lost a third of its health workers and 15 per cent of its teachers.  In Zambia, AIDS killed teachers twice as fast as replacements could be trained.  The disease had killed nearly 8 million African farmers -- more than the number of farmers in North America and the European Union combined.  If every American living in a city from Boston to Washington suddenly vanished, they could all be replaced with Africa’s orphans.

He said the prevalence of HIV was not only taking a toll in lost lives and reduced life expectancy, but also directly undermining the capacity of communities to produce enough food.  The impact of that catastrophe on food production was enormous.  An estimate earlier this year that 3.5 million people would need emergency food aid had more than doubled to 8.3 million with the return of drought conditions to some areas.  More than 4 million people were at risk in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million in Malawi, 1.2 million in Zambia and 900,000 in Mozambique.

Sadly, the use of food as a weapon persisted in Africa, he said, adding that starvation had been used as a weapon in Darfur, southern Sudan, Somalia, Angola, northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and West Africa over the last decade.  The most egregious example of that tactic today was in Darfur, where the situation continued to deteriorate.  In much of Africa the prevalence of hunger was an accurate barometer for the level of social instability.  Whatever the cause of that instability -- civil conflict, drought, AIDS, poor governance or any combination of those factors -- hunger almost always came with it.  Hunger was both a cause and an effect of poverty and of political conflict.

There were few phenomena in modern life as political as humanitarian aid, he said.  The major donors all made clearly political choices on which humanitarian aid projects to fund.  In 2003, only 23 per cent of total official development assistance (ODA) had gone to the least developed countries, and 24 per cent to Africa.  Few consolidated appeals in Africa were well-funded:  Somalia was at 39 per cent; Congo at 30 per cent; the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 35 per cent; Côte d’Ivoire at 30 per cent; and Sudan at 33 per cent.  Those were the fortunate countries.  Niger had received only 11 per cent of its flash appeal, the Central African Republic just 17 per cent and Djibouti only 5 per cent.

He said WFP’s portfolio was heavily emergency-oriented and heavily African in focus.  Yet, neither Africa nor the least developed nations had been the priority in ODA to date.  While overall ODA commitments were climbing, food aid, critically important in Africa, was in sharp decline.  Globally, it had dropped by more than 1.8 million metric tons last year (excluding Iraq) despite the fact that the number of hungry people worldwide had actually risen from 790 million in the mid-1990s to 852 million today.  The WFP was trying to be more creative in its approach.  It was looking at a famine insurance scheme in Ethiopia, as well as ways to maximize the impact of donations by changing their business processes.  Globally, the agency had phased out food aid in 25 countries since the mid-1990s and hoped, one day, to phase out Africa too.

The representative of the United States expressed concern about the ongoing campaign to demolish low-income housing and informal businesses in Zimbabwe, which had left at least 420,000 people homeless, many of them children.  Depriving them of shelter and income had aggravated that country’s already serious humanitarian situation.  The United States stood ready to assist Zimbabwe with large-scale food assistance, as it had done from 2002 to 2004, but it was disheartened that Government policies were making the problem worse.  Zimbabwe’s “meltdown” affected trade, investment and food security throughout Africa.

Echoing that sentiment, the representative of the United Kingdom said Zimbabwe’s economic collapse was clearly the result of bad policies and bad governance, which was itself a cause of food insecurity.  The international community was responding to the crisis caused by the Government’s crackdown on the poorest communities, as up to 300,000 people had been made homeless and thousands of children forced to abandon school.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said he shared the international community’s concern over the dislocation of people in Zimbabwe and welcomed the Secretary-General’s appointment of a Special Envoy to evaluate the humanitarian impact of the evictions.  However, the Council had just heard conflicting figures regarding the number of people affected and should reserve judgment until the actual numbers were confirmed.

Following the briefing, the Council also heard statements by the representatives of Denmark, Russian Federation, Brazil, Romania, Philippines, Argentina, Japan, China, Greece, Benin, Algeria and France.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:35 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing on Africa’s food crisis as a threat to peace and security, by the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa. 

Briefing by WFP Executive Director

JAMES T. MORRIS, WFP Executive Director and Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, said that the greatest humanitarian crisis today was not in Darfur, Afghanistan or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea -- it was the gradual disintegration of the social structures in Southern Africa, in which hunger was playing a critical part.  A lethal mix of AIDS, recurring drought and failing governance was eroding social and political stability.  Last year alone, AIDS had killed a million people in the region and only now was it entering the peak impact period for the pandemic 2005-2007.  On average, life expectancy had plummeted by 20 years, while children in North America, Europe and Japan could expect to live twice as long as those in Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe.  In fact, life expectancy in much of Southern Africa was barely more than it had been in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Earlier this year it had been estimated that 3.5 million people would need emergency food aid, he said.  That figure had more than doubled to 8.3 million with the return of drought conditions to some areas.  More than 4 million people were at risk in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million in Malawi, 1.2 million in Zambia and 900,000 in Mozambique.  At the same time, the prevalence of HIV was not only taking a toll in lives lost and reduced life expectancy, but also directly undermining the capacity of communities to produce enough food.  The impact of that catastrophe on food production was enormous.

Noting that HIV prevalence ranged from a low of 12 per cent in Mozambique, all the way up to 42 per cent in Swaziland, he said that in 2003 alone, Lesotho had lost a third of its health workers and 15 per cent of its teachers.  In Zambia, AIDS killed teachers twice as fast as replacements could be trained.  AIDS had killed nearly 8 million African farmers -- more farmers than there were in North America and the European Union combined.  If every American living in a city from Boston to Washington suddenly vanished, they could all be replaced with Africa’s orphans.  Those social crises continued to linger without enough public attention.  In much of Africa, villages acted as extended families and as a form of social security.  That system was now stretched to the breaking point where AIDS had taken its greatest toll.

Globally, hunger was a symptom of failure to cope with natural disaster and to overcome social inequities, ethnic strife and racial hatred, he said.  But addressing hunger and malnutrition -- and saving the women and children who suffered the most -- required the cooperation of those in charge where those very failures took place.  Even with the cooperation of civil authorities, delivering food and humanitarian aid was a dangerous business and WFP had lost more staff than any United Nations agency except the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Assaults on convoys and hostage taking were not uncommon.  The WFP staff had been summarily executed by insurgents in Burundi, while the Taliban had not only arrested and harassed WFP staff, but also fired a hand-held missile at one of the agency’s planes in northern Afghanistan. 

Sadly, he said, the use of food as a weapon persisted in Africa.  Over the last decade starvation had been used as a weapon in Darfur, southern Sudan, Somalia, Angola, northern Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and West Africa.  But the tactic was by no means unique to Africa.  It had been employed in Europe as recently as 1992 by the Bosnian Serbs in the siege of Sarajevo.  The most egregious example of the use of food as a weapon today was in Darfur, where the situation continued to deteriorate.  It had been estimated in January that 2.8 million people would need food aid to avert mass starvation, while today the number was believed to be closer to 3.5 million.

Turning to peace, stability and hunger, he said that in much of Africa the prevalence of hunger was an accurate barometer for the level of social instability.  It did not matter whether that instability was caused by civil conflict, drought, AIDS, poor governance or any combination of those factors -- hunger almost always came with it.  A United Nations review of half a dozen conflicts in Africa over a 20-year period had shown an absolute correlation between armed conflict and reduced agricultural production, on average by 20 per cent, and with that a rise in the prevalence of hunger.  The relation between hunger and conflict was similar to that between hunger and poverty.  Hunger was both a cause and an effect of poverty.  It was also both a cause and effect of political conflict, though hunger was usually only one of a number of factors at play.

Chronic hunger in the African countryside was a destabilizing influence that undermined political stability and security, he said.  It spurred the continuing migration of rural people into cities, where the existence of at least some basic social services -- including subsidized or free food -- acted as a lure.  There was a chance that as anti-retroviral drugs became more widely available -- undoubtedly first in urban areas -- they too would act as a magnet in rural-urban migration.  Waves of AIDS orphans were fleeing the countryside and arrived in cities without any means of economic support, often contributing to social disintegration and crime.  Hungry children were far more easily recruited as child soldiers in places like northern Uganda.  A dedicated effort was needed through school feeding and other activities to keep those children in rural areas and in school.

Noting that projections in urban population growth in sub-Saharan Africa were among the world’s highest, he said that cities like Nairobi, Lagos and Lusaka were experiencing growth rates of more than 6 per cent per annum.  The impact of rural-urban migration on employment in Africa had been precisely the opposite of Western Europe and the United States -- it had led to higher rather than lower rates of unemployment and social instability.  At a certain point the capacities of municipal governments were stretched to the limit and social demands were not met, aggravating internal political and social tensions, especially among competing ethnic groups perhaps not accustomed to sharing the same political space.

There was little concerted investment to encourage Africans to remain in the countryside, he said.  African governments and international donors had neglected investment in agriculture, which aggravated the problem of poverty.  In countries like Uganda and Kenya, more than 80 per cent of the poorest people were rural, yet official development assistance (ODA) statistics showed that the percentage of funding devoted to agriculture had dropped from 12 per cent in the early 1980s to a mere 4 per cent today.  The current terms of trade for the continent’s agricultural produce were also poor, further undermining rural economies.  That made the progress in the Doha Round on dismantling subsidies and other trade-distorting practices critical for rural Africa.

There were few phenomena in modern life as political as humanitarian aid, he said.  The major donors all made clearly political choices on which humanitarian aid projects to fund.  Some sought to have a global scope to their emergency aid, others concentrated regionally, on former colonies, or where they saw the greatest socioeconomic interest at home.  Some time ago, he compared aid channelled through WFP with the broader patterns of ODA, which included humanitarian assistance, and the results had been interesting.  In 2003, only 23 per cent of total ODA went to the least developed countries, and 24 per cent to Africa. 

He said that WFP’s portfolio was heavily emergency-oriented and heavily African in focus.  Three quarters of that aid went to the least developed countries and African countries.  Yet, neither Africa nor the least developed nations had been the priority in ODA to date.  While overall commitments to ODA were climbing, and recent European initiatives were especially welcome, food aid, which was critically important in Africa, was in sharp decline.  Globally, that had dropped by more than 1.8 million metric tons last year, excluding Iraq.  That was happening, despite the fact that the number of hungry people worldwide actually rose from 790 million in the mid-1990s to 852 million today. 

He said few consolidated appeals in Africa were well-funded:  Somalia was at 39 per cent; the Republic of the Congo was at 30 per cent; the Democratic Republic of the Congo was at 35 per cent; Côte d’Ivoire was at 30 per cent; and Sudan was at 33 per cent.  Those were the fortunate countries.  Niger had received only 11 per cent of its flash appeal, Central African Republic, just 17 per cent, and Djibouti, only 5 per cent.  Occasionally, he had thought that the worst place for a hungry child to live in Africa today was a country that was at peace with its neighbours and relatively stable, but just plain poor.  That was because funding levels rose with the incidence of violence and media interest.

He said he had been encouraged by growing donor attention to some of the less popular emergencies.  President Bush’s recent announcement of 50,000 tons of food aid for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been particularly welcome, as was an earlier donation by Germany.  The Blair Commission had been extraordinary in focusing public attention on both humanitarian and developmental needs in Africa. 

Thanking the Council members for the support of Africa’s hungry and to the WFP, he noted that France had recently doubled its contribution, and Japan, Denmark and the United Kingdom had been consistently strong contributors to emergencies.  Both the Russian Federation and China had joined the ranks of donors in the last few years, and in 2004 the United States provided more than $1 billion annually for the fourth straight year.  There were other encouraging signs for Africa, including the G-8 initiative, renewed popular interest as seen in the revival of LiveAid, and the Bush-Blair announcement of $674 million in emergency food aid, and, most importantly, the work of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other home-grown development initiatives. 

He said that WFP, itself, was trying to be more creative in its approach.  For example, it was looking at a famine insurance scheme in Ethiopia -- a country with the highest per capita donations for emergencies and the lowest for development.  It was also looking at ways to maximize the impact of donations by changing their business processes.  Ultimately, the goal was to be “out of business in Africa”.  It was extraordinarily proud that, globally, WFP had phased out food aid in 25 countries since the mid-1990s.  One day, it wanted to phase out Africa, too.  In 2000, at the Millennium Summit, every nation around this table made just that pledge -- to halve hunger and poverty.  It was time to show progress and, with that, to build peace and security in a troubled continent. 

Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark), acknowledging Mr. Morris’ account of the situation facing millions and millions of poor people in Africa daily, said the briefing had been an extremely useful reality check for the Council’s work.  Everyone had a role and a responsibility in helping to break the vicious cycle of instability and poverty.  The first Millennium Development Goal was to halve poverty by 2015, and one of the prerequisites for reaching that ambitious target was, among others, to maintain assistance and complement that aid by activities that bridged the transition to development.  She supported the anticipated establishment of a peacebuilding commission, which would mark a new beginning for countries emerging from conflict. 

Noting that the situation in the Sudan had been discussed extensively yesterday in Council consultations, she said that tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons were returning to southern Sudan, where a continuous relief effort was needed to secure peace and stability.  She shared Mr. Morris’ deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Africa overall, particularly the effects of the triple threat of food and security, HIV/AIDS, and weakened capacity.  That triple threat was relevant to development in many African countries, including Zimbabwe.  She was gravely concerned about the current crisis in that country, as it had left so many homeless and led to a deterioration of the humanitarian situation.  It was important that the Government live up to its obligation, particularly scrupulous respect for human rights.

She asked Mr. Morris for comments on coordination between the WFP and the Peacekeeping Department, especially in dealing with food and security in conflict situations and handling food aid in those areas.  Also, what were the priorities in the ongoing international work and how did he see the contribution of the WFP? she asked.  As a Special Envoy, he had repeatedly stressed the importance of the coordinated arrangements established in Johannesburg for United Nations’ activities in Southern Africa.  Why had those been especially successful and were there some general lessons to be learned for the United Nations?

ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said that the challenge of strengthening peace and security, as well as social and economic capacity in Africa and elsewhere were interconnected.  The Russian Federation had written off more than $16 billion in debt to Africa, including $2 billion under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.  The Russian Federation was also trying to develop partnerships with multilateral donor agencies.

PAULO ROBERTO CAMPOS TARRISSEE DA FONTOURA (Brazil), recalling the recent debate on protection of civilians in armed conflicts, said that the Security Council had paid due consideration to the problems of famine and armed conflicts and how the international community could address them.  Brazil attached the highest importance to the concept of food security.  Food security was a moral imperative both in emergency situations and on a permanent basis.  The absence of food security made societies more vulnerable to conflicts and it was within that context that WFP efforts to ensure long-term food security must be placed.

MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania) said the briefing had highlighted the serious humanitarian challenges facing Africa, which called for the Council’s careful consideration.  The practice of periodic briefings on humanitarian developments in Africa and elsewhere was very useful.  Mr. Morris’ missions to Southern Africa had been proof of the need for the United Nations to address as effectively and as urgently as possible the humanitarian crises and needs of that region.  He could not get used to the idea that, for the main international organ entrusted with safeguarding peace and security -- the Security Council -- there could be any forgotten, silent or ignored crises. 

He said that the situations in Southern Africa, to which Mr. Morris had eloquently referred, appeared to be the most vulnerable and most affected by the triple threat.  Political disenfranchisement of important segments of the populations only compounded that combination of factors.  If not adequately dealt with together, they had the potential to affect regional peace and stability.  The magnitude and severity of the crisis in Southern Africa required sustained international support.  The humanitarian response was critical for those countries, particularly food assistance, since, in many cases, food insecurity there had recently been exacerbated. 

The situation in Zimbabwe was deteriorating, food shortages were becoming chronic, and the numbers in need of assistance were increasing, he said, as he called on that Government to work together with the international community and humanitarian agencies to improve the situation.  It should waste no time in providing the donor community with “credible” figures on those in need of food assistance.  He asked Mr. Morris what he would suggest the Council could do to support and complement the humanitarian efforts of the various agencies, funds and programmes in Southern Africa, since only integrated and coordinated actions could break the cycle of poverty and instability there. 

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said it was sad but true that hunger remained a major factor in many African countries.  Despite a better than average harvest overall, significant food crises were looming and actual in several countries.  The underlying causes of hunger were complex, but they were undoubtedly linked to both governance and peace and security, which were the principal concerns of the Security Council.  As Mr. Morris had said, a lethal mix of HIV/AIDS, recurring drought and failing governance was eroding social and political stability.  The forthcoming September Summit was a major opportunity for a step forward on development and securing, on time, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  But, development was a bargain between donors and recipients.  The former must do more and better, and the latter must tackle governance and corruption and have the policies to achieve the Goals. 

He said that governance was itself an indicator of a country’s political state.  Bad governance could be a sign of a lack of democracy, declining respect for human rights, or of a potential or even actual conflict.  Food shortages and inadequate food distribution were known causes of instability and could increase the potential for conflict.  Hunger was both a cause and an effect of conflict.  Moreover, bad governance was itself a cause of food insecurity.  It was not always unjust agricultural production, and rather than drought, often poor governance and mismanagement were the causes of food crises.  Lack of food, poverty, increasing disease through lack of immunizations could lead to increased refugee flows, which were destabilizing.  Zimbabwe was an obvious example.  The crisis there was particularly distressing, and the international community was already gearing up to increase assistance in response to another poor harvest.

In Zimbabwe, he continued, the poor communities had been devastated, not just by low food production, but also by continuing economic collapse, which had undermined the ability to buy food and staples.  The international community was also responding to the crisis caused by the Zimbabwean Government’s crackdown on the poorest communities, as up to 300,000 people had been made homeless and thousands of children had been forced to abandon school.  That crisis had been manmade and was not a natural phenomenon.  Clearly, Zimbabwe’s economic collapse had been the result of bad policies and bad governance.  The United Kingdom had contributed more than $570,000 to the current crisis, through United Nations agencies, and since September 2001 it had provided $100 million in relief, including to the HIV/AIDS programme in Zimbabwe.  It would consider further contributions if, sadly, it proved necessary. 

The international community should do more, including monitoring changing climatic patterns, he said.  And, everyone should consider how the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved more quickly.  African governments needed help in providing a long-term response, instead of just relying on an emergency system.  Humanitarian access was also crucial.  Prevention was so much better than cure.   The Security Council’s primary role, to preserve and ensure international peace and security, meant that it had to be better at predicting and preventing conflict before it happened. 

BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines) said regional organizations could help resolve the interconnected problems affecting Africa, and asked whether WFP had established any relationship with such bodies as the African Union or the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Did the agency have any success stories?  Much had been said about the need to empower women as food providers and in fighting AIDS.  Did the agency have any relevant projects?

CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said that the question of the international trade in agricultural produce resided with leaders outside Africa.  In the mid-term and long-term, African citizens themselves must generate the policies and leadership to emerge from poverty and hunger.  However, the international community had a responsibility and should generate the necessary incentives to promote agricultural exports.  The current policies on agricultural subsidies and high tariffs clearly distorted the prices of African commodities and prevented African countries from exporting those products in which they enjoyed a comparative advantage.  It was extremely important for the international community to promote changes in the rules of international trade, as well as a successful conclusion to the Doha Round and other measures that could help the trade in African commodities.  Did WFP consider increasing investment in basic infrastructure in Africa?  What was the relationship between the agency and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations regarding the maintenance of food security?

SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan) said he shared the view that peace and security could not be maintained without tackling hunger.  The Secretary-General had said, in his reform report, that a world in which 11 million children died each year before their fifth birthday and where three million people died of AIDS was not a world of larger freedom.  The effect of hunger on children was especially devastating, as that robbed them of a future.  Desperate children had no other choice than to become soldiers.  Thus, hunger also contributed to the serious problem of child soldiers.  Japan was deeply concerned about children being forced to experience such suffering, and it was determined to continue to provide assistance, especially through school feeding programmes.  Those programmes helped children to resume normal and peaceful lives.  They also helped to overcome hunger and promote education. 

He said that hunger, as a result of extreme poverty, was the result of several factors.  Low productivity was aggravated by conflict, natural disasters, HIV/AIDS, and weak governance, and only comprehensive remedies could address such complex problems.  Even when productivity was relatively high, inefficient or distorted distribution systems could prevent ordinary citizens from obtaining food.  Distribution was also a challenge to the food assistance programmes of the WFP, for which accurate needs assessments and reliable monitoring were indispensable.  He asked Mr. Morris how the WFP collaborated with other relevant United Nations agencies to address hunger in a holistic manner.  He also asked what the Programme expected from intergovernmental bodies, especially the Security Council.  Also, how could the WFP address chronic hunger in Southern Africa, and what were the challenges in terms of cooperation with governments?

ZHANG YISHAN (China) acknowledged the WFP’s long-term commitment to providing emergency food assistance to countries and people emerging from disasters.  The Programme had also helped to settle armed conflicts in certain countries and regions.  Food crises had been troubling in many African countries.  Poverty was the root cause of conflict and conflict, in turn, exacerbated poverty.  The elimination of poverty was a condition for international peace, development and stability.  And, ending conflict was a prerequisite for eliminating poverty, guaranteeing food security, and achieving sustainable development.  Conflicts and their recurrence in Africa had been directly related to the question of food. 

As the organ entrusted with international peace and security, the Council, when analyzing the causes of conflicts in Africa, should give adequate recognition to the food issue, he said.  Hopefully, all sides would pay adequate attention to the impact of the African food crisis on peace and security, and take effective measures to help the continent eliminate hunger and poverty.  That was the only way to genuinely achieve peace and stability in Africa. 

ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) noted that current trends indicated worsening food insecurity due to difficult weather patterns, health factors and the use of food as a tool of war.  The numbers given by the Executive Director were staggering and it was obvious that in order to avert disaster, immediate and adequate relief, as well as long-term arrangements were very important.  What would the international community do to confront the challenges of child hunger?  Given the relationship between HIV/AIDS and hunger, what was the relationship between WFP and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)?

JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said that guaranteeing food security for people around the world should not pose major difficulties.  The challenge to be met was that of distribution.  The world system was dysfunctional; poor countries bore the brunt of structural adjustment programmes, as well as international trade policies involving subsidies.  The international community should be concerned about the need to give poor countries a chance to survive.  Political disputes should not affect humanitarian assistance or impede aid to a country hit by HIV/AIDS when the United Nations had set up a programme to combat the disease.  The international community must exercise its responsibilities to populations under threat in vulnerable countries.  There was a link between poverty and conflict and the international community should establish a special programme to help those countries with particularly serious needs.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said it was indeed true that a hungry person was an angry person.  Hunger was caused by natural cyclical reasons, such as drought and poor administration of resources, but also by structural causes.  The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) were better equipped than the Security Council to propose solutions in that regard, but questions of governance, modes of farm production, and the supremely unfair agricultural practices of developed countries also had a role in today’s debate. 

He said he had agreed with Mr. Morris when he said that food should never become a tool of war or a tool of political coercion.  Hopefully, the Council members would reaffirm that principle.  He appreciated the efforts of the WFP in Africa, particularly in support of NEPAD’s objectives, and for the efforts it was making internationally.  It could rest assured of Algeria’s continued support. 

ANNE WOODS PATTERSON (United States) said that the challenges in Africa represented a compelling call for international cooperation -- to support the continent’s efforts to achieve lasting progress, peace and security.  While some progress in Africa had been made in recent years, the continent continued to face problems that required sustained international cooperation and support.  The United States remained actively involved with its counterparts in addressing hunger in Africa, and it recognized the critical link between meeting humanitarian needs and building long-term peace and security on the continent. 

Drawing attention to some specific situations where hunger continued to threaten peace and security in Africa, she said that in Sudan, insufficient resources to meet humanitarian needs in Darfur could exacerbate existing tensions and violence, as well as provide additional cross-border displacement into eastern Chad.  In southern Sudan, reduced food contributions would hamper resettlement and further stretch already scarce household resources of both resident and returnee populations. 

Ethiopia, in addition to the current acute crisis, suffered from chronic drought and problems stemming from overpopulation, land degradation, poor market systems and infrastructure, and the delayed implementation of its Productive Safety Net Program, she said.  Currently, at least 12 million people were at risk, and the United Nations estimated that more than 500,000 children were suffering from various forms of malnutrition.  Localized famine conditions existed in several regions within the country, and the situation was expected to deteriorate if more resources were not provided to address urgent humanitarian needs.

She said that, in West Africa, inadequately-resourced food pipelines had already forced the WFP to reduce rations in refugee camps in Sierra Leone.  In Liberia, inadequate resettlement packages for returnees would be complicated by ration cuts in the coming months, coinciding with the national election period.  Those could serve as a flashpoint in an already volatile environment and would further inhibit the resettlement process.

The Government of Niger had also recently declared a food security emergency, she said.  The United Nations had reported that 3.6 million inhabitants, including 800,000 children, were vulnerable.  Some 13.4 per cent of the children were acutely malnourished, and 2.5 per cent of them were severely malnourished.  Such alarming rates were normally associated with conflict-torn countries. 

In Southern Africa, WFP had planned to provide food aid to 8 million people, but presently, stocks and food pipelines in all six countries of the region were extremely limited, she noted.  Without new commitments, WFP would be unable to meet the food needs of several million highly vulnerable Southern Africans.  Lives were unquestionably at stake.  Recent fragile gains towards good governance, and the number of people benefiting from anti-retroviral therapy, were also at serious risk.

She said that, in Zimbabwe, she was worried that the ongoing campaign to demolish low-income housing and informal businesses had created at least 420,000 homeless persons, many of whom were children.  Depriving those people of shelter and income had aggravated the already serious humanitarian situation.  The United States stood ready to assist Zimbabwe with large-scale food assistance, as it did from 2002 to 2004, but it was disheartened that Government policies were making the problem worse.  She urged the Government to end the slum demolition campaign and to engage in a dialogue to end Zimbabwe’s political impasse and to halt the economy’s decline.  Zimbabwe’s “meltdown” affected trade, investment and food security throughout Africa.

The United States had already provided nearly $1.4 billion this fiscal year for humanitarian needs in Africa and it would soon provide an additional $674 million, she said.  Global food insecurity was complex and dynamic, and there was no standard recipe of assistance to properly address all national and regional crises.  The international community must continue to develop tools that were flexible enough to address the uniqueness of each crisis.  Those tools, together with the recipient government’s attention to good governance and sound policies, would enable the global community to provide truly effective assistance.  She commended the WFP for being a steadfast partner in the fight to end hunger. 

TUVAKO NATHANIEL MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said the triple threat of food insecurity, poor governance and HIV/AIDS was a real threat that could be overcome by support, technical assistance and dialogue.  While Africa had plenty of fertile land and was rich in mineral resources, it was also vulnerable.  A common cause of food shortages in Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe and others was a result of erratic weather.  Some of those countries were in their third or fourth year of rain failure, which left farmers with little or no harvest.  The region’s vulnerabilities were exacerbated by dependence on the export of primary agricultural products.  African countries differed in their political development, as well as in terms of climatic conditions, with Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe chronically prone to drought and famine.  Capacities also differed and the countries in the region needed support to raise their capabilities.

He said that many tears had been shed for Africa -- crocodile tears in some cases.  As a country hosting a huge population of refugees from war-torn countries, the United Republic of Tanzania had seen many appeals for food aid go unheeded.  The international community was far better at talking than acting, and the coming September Summit should provide an opportunity to change that.  The United Republic of Tanzania shared the international community’s concern over the dislocation of people in Zimbabwe and welcomed the Secretary-General’s appointment of Anna Tibaijuka as his Special Envoy to evaluate the humanitarian impact of the evictions.  The Security Council had just heard conflicting figures regarding the number of people affected and should reserve judgment until the actual numbers were confirmed.

MICHEL DUCLOS (France), speaking in his national capacity, sought information about access to populations in need and the security of humanitarian personnel.  The Emergency Relief Coordinator had called for strengthened mandates for peacekeeping operations, including the establishments of security zones or corridors.  What did the Executive Director think about that, in light of his experiences in the field?  Regarding the horrifying situation of children in Southern Africa, what did he expect of the international community and how could his proposals be coordinated with the work of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank?  Finally, France was concerned about the food situation in Zimbabwe and hoped that international efforts and those of WFP could, in the long term, improve the situation of the people in that country.

Summary of WFP Executive-Director’s Response

Mr. MORRIS said that many questions were worthy of a longer response and he would provide a written memo to the Council, soon.  The first issue raised related to south Sudan, specifically to the humanitarian and refugee issues.  That was very serious, and his estimates, setting Darfur aside, suggested that 3.2 million people needed help in the part of the Sudan affected by the current peace process.  People were returning, but the numbers who had returned to Kenya as refuges were exceeding the numbers coming back to south Sudan. 

He said that the entire humanitarian community was “woefully underfunded”.  He had not come to the Security Council to ask for money, but all countries here had invested billions in the peace process in feeding and providing shelter and so forth during the 21-year conflict, and his concern was that, if it became impossible to, at least, provide food, water and shelter for people as they came home, much could be risked. 

Resourcing was going “pretty well” in Darfur, but the security situation was very risky, he said.  At the peak of the hunger season in Darfur, he might be required to provide food for 3.5 million people, and that figure could go as high as 4 million.  There had been no crop production in Darfur this year, and until people felt safe enough to go home, there could be no crop production next year.  If people were not comfortable to begin the agricultural cycle, the situation would become like the one in Algeria, where Western Saharan refugees had been there for decades and more people had been born in the camps than had come originally.  Restoring food and water was essential to allowing people to return home. 

He urged everyone to be equally focused on the host community as on the internally displaced and refugees, or chaos could ensue.  For example, malnutrition could be reduced in the camps, and suddenly the nutrition status in the camps could be better than for the people on the perimeter.  Luckily, the Government and people of Chad had welcomed the refugees from Darfur, but that had burdened them with an enormous responsibility, and food and water resources had been overwhelmed.  Food support was being provided for some 250,000 refugees in Chad and not quite that many local citizens, although that was also substantial. 

The Council should remain focused on the work of WFP and the entire humanitarian community.  The situation in Darfur was very risky.  The Programme had fed 1.8 million people in May.  Another 700,000 in the north and south should have been fed, but lack of security had prevented the staff from reaching them.  The food had been available, and almost 900 trucks had been under contract, but three drivers of private contractors were killed last month, and that was a disincentive to the others.  The security issue was pre-eminent in terms of the humanitarian response and the long-term response. 

He warned against any confusion in the public mind about the role of the humanitarian community and the role of the peacekeepers.  As soon as conflicting populations saw the humanitarian community as an extension of peacekeeping or military activities, they were less likely to respect the “humanitarian space”.  His job was to feed the hungry, the at-risk population.  He left the political issues to others to resolve. 

Southern Africa was a model of how the United Nations family was working together.  That might not be front page news, but it was a prime example of what happened when the United Nations system came together.  In Johannesburg, the regional directors were functioning as a single team.  That was the epitome of United Nation reform.  The crisis was extremely important and everyone was focused on the beneficiaries.  There had been remarkable progress in the past three years.  UNAIDS was also part of that effort.  The single most important global effort was to educate children ages 5 to 15 about the seriousness of the pandemic, and to feed them.  Anti-retroviral treatment did not work in a poorly nourished, poorly fed body.  Leaders of non-governmental organizations had “begged” the United Nations community to stay together as a single family, because it also served them well and did not overwhelm governments.

Among his other points was the difficulty of the situation in Zimbabwe, where some 4 million people were now at risk.  At the height of that crisis, the WFP had provided food for 5.5 million people, but that number had declined.  It had started the effort with four non-governmental organization partners and, at the high point, that had gone to 23.  Today, 15 non-governmental organizations were working with the Programme.  He had visited with President Mugabe recently and discussed the importance of full freedom of movement for the United Nations, in order to feed the hungriest and the poorest. 

He said that the food was getting to those in need in Zimbabwe, but with a shortfall in crop production, more than 1 million more tons of food would be needed.  The Government had said it was committed, but it had been reluctant to ask the international community for help.  It had said, however, that if the world community chose to help, such support would be welcome.  He was uncomfortable with that, as it was easier to do business if people said what they needed and then he went about pulling it together.  He was worried about the situation in Zimbabwe, which he had put in the category of North Korea and Sudan -- places he had worried about most in the past year. 

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For information media. Not an official record.