A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Kristalina Georgieva endorsed today a Charter, launched by leading agencies, to make deadly food crises like the one gripping East Africa a thing of the past. The first leader to sign this charter was Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and later other leaders including UK Development Minister Andrew Mitchell endorsed it.
Georgieva’s public engagement came as part of a debate, held by aid groups Caritas Europa, Oxfam, Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) and ONE, at the European Development Days - Europe's premier forum on international affairs and development cooperation - taking place in Warsaw this week.
The severe drought and food crisis that has put 13 million people at risk in the Horn of Africa is expected to carry on well into 2012.
Mark Breusers from Caritas International Belgium said: “The current crisis in the region is not new. For many years, almost 10% of Ethiopian population has been chronically food insecure, so our approaches have failed to secure food, particularly for the poorest population.”
Commissioner Georgieva said: “We need to pre-empt crises, rather than reacting when the disaster hits. To my mind the problem is that we have very powerful forces of nature but we have policies that are not yet quite well connected to face the problem. That’s why I endorse the Charter to End Extreme Hunger because it is a global commitment to prevent any other famines from happening. I hope it leads to a transformative change. The world has changed and we must respond early, support local food production, make food affordable, protect the poorest and most vulnerable and reduce armed conflict.“
Fran Equiza, Oxfam’s Regional Director for the Horn, East and Central Africa, said: “It's tragic that the world only responds to a crisis when it is far too late. Why do we only take care of malnourished children when they are about to die? Why don’t we deal with the real root causes of hunger? Clearly, morally and economically, prevention is the right thing to do.”
Ricardo Cortés Lastra, a Member of the European Parliament added: “The European Parliament is deeply concerned about the Horn of Africa food crisis and more efforts should be deployed to establish long term development policies that must be assessed on a regular basis.”
To ensure this is the world’s last food crisis, the event organizers – Caritas Europa, Oxfam, PAH and ONE – are calling on the European Union as a whole, including the European Commission and EU member states, to take action on these three fronts:
- Launch a pan-European initiative for the Horn Africa, involving all EU member states, that mobilizes substantial funds for recovery and longer-term assistance to ensure families can feed themselves now and rebuild their futures.
- Invest more in building people’s resilience by supporting local food production: supporting local, small-scale farmers and pastoralists is one of the best ways to mitigate the effects of climate change and soaring food prices. To do so, the EU must boost these investments within the next 7-year EU budget.
- Launch a new flexible tool that ensures there is no money gap between emergency aid and long-term assistance when a humanitarian crisis strikes.
Oxfam's humanitarian response to the East Africa food crisis
Notes to editors
A PDF of the ‘Charter to End Extreme Hunger’ is available at http://oxf.am/4Ep (pdf, 14kb)
The Charter has been drafted and endorsed by groups including:
ActionAid, Merlin, Oxfam, Islamic Aid, Christian Aid, The Eastern Africa Civil Society Forum, CAFOD, Tearfund, International Medical Corps, Channel 16, Eastern & Southern Africa Farmers' Forum, International Rescue Committee, Muslim Aid, The Legal Resources Foundation, ADRA International, ONE, Plan International, Save the Children, West African Civil Society Forum, World Vision.
In Warsaw: Ola Blumczyñska on +48 501 663 333 or email@example.com
In Brussels: Angela Corbalan on + 32 473 56 22 60 or firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/angelacorbalan