Wednesday, 12 November 2008

AFRICA: Christian Aid Launches Food Crisis Appeal for Continent

LONDON, August 8, 2008 (CISA) -The UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal to support the millions of people going hungry across Africa in the face of escalating food prices.Most African countries are not self-sufficient in food and are now being hit by massive price hikes so that once cheap imports are unaffordable. In the first three months of this year, all major foodstuffs hit their highest prices in real terms for nearly 30 years, according the World Food Programme (WFP).Ethiopia is facing a potential catastrophe with 126,000 children in immediate danger of death and a further six million at risk of malnutrition, according to the UN. Kenya has seen price hikes of 50 per cent in six months.In Burkina Faso, almost a quarter of children under five are emaciated and half a million people are dependent on WFP handouts. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, families are forced to skip meals."Christian Aid is doing everything we can to help – but we want to do more," says Nick Guttmann, head of Christian Aid’s humanitarian division. "We are urging people in Britain, the churches and religious groups to help us increase our support to those most vulnerable to this crisis."With more cash, we can further develop work with our local African partner agencies, distributing seeds and livestock and helping communities improve their agricultural productivity to reduce their dependence on highly priced imported foods."Christian Aid said the crisis had been caused in part by "ruinous" trade liberalisation policies forced on poor countries by donor nations and international financial institutions.In return for trade and aid, poor countries have had to remove protective tariffs from agricultural produce, leaving markets open to heavily subsidised imports from richer nations, which have driven local producers out of business. Global food price rises have as a result forced up the price of imports.In recent years, there has also been chronic under investment in food production in poorer countries, and a greater emphasis on cash crops such as flowers, tobacco and bio-fuels, whilst climate change and rising fuel prices have pushed up the cost of fertilised, seeds, pump irrigation and other agricultural necessities.Christian Aid said it would work on the ground with those most affected across Africa, as well as continue campaigning for changes to the trading structures that impoverish people, and for governments to address climate change.

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