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NATURAL DISASTERS AND DONOR FATIGUE LEAVE MILLIONS FACING STARVATION
By James Palmer
October 29, 2002
Millions of people face starvation because the United Nations' World Food
Programme (WFP) is being inundated by an unprecedented series of
weather-related disasters, the world's largest aid agency warned yesterday.
"The sad truth is that as things stand the humanitarian system faces the
prospect of being completely overwhelmed. We need more help than we've ever
asked for in the past," said James Morris, executive director of the WFP.
The event that could cripple the system is a drought in the Horn of Africa,
which is threatening up to 14 million people with starvation.
The WFP is calling for immediate help in providing and distributing the
800,000 tonnes of food needed in Ethiopia and Eritrea by next year.
Poor spring and autumn rains have meant an almost complete loss of Eritrea's
cereal harvest and widespread crop losses in Ethiopia, where a famine in
1985 caught the attention of the West, prompting the Band Aid charity
concerts. An estimated 5.2 million people need immediate food assistance.
Mr Morris said: "While modern society is not prepared to tolerate the face
of mass hunger, agencies like WFP... are finding it increasingly difficult
to find the resources to respond adequately to the growing number of
He said the UN had already had to suspend assistance to three million women,
children and elderly people in North Korea. Donor fatigue had set in, as the
effect of wars in Angola and Sudan (where WFP is feeding 1.9 million and 2.9
million people respectively), and Afghanistan (where food is being delivered
to some 10 million people), "was testing the capacity of the world to
respond". An estimated 14.4 million people in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique,
Swaziland, Lesotho and Malawi face famine due to a lethal combination of
failed rains and bad governance, compounded by the HIV/Aids epidemic.
In addition, the organisation said it was trying to feed 1.5 million people
hit by drought in Central America.
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