The Horn of Africa is on the Brink of Hunger
Khartoum - Reports by the UN and some international organizations have warned of a wide-scale starvation in the Horn of Africa. The reports attributed the causes to drought, rocketing food prices; besides the persistent conflicts in the region.
A report by the UN indicated that 17 million persons are desperate for food aid, 3 million of whom were children across the Horn of Africa. The organization expects the number to rise if proper assistance is not provided.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, The Red Cross Federation says 20 million people in the Horn of Africa are barely surviving because of acute hunger.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Federations say more food aid is urgently needed to prevent outright famine in parts of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya.
The federation says droughts, high food prices and the fluctuating value of the US dollar are the main reasons for the crisis.
It says many in the East African region are already suffering from chronic poverty and were uprooted by violence. These organizations maintain that earlier reports issued by the UN were inaccurate because they did not include the situation in Eritrea and Djibouti.
Risks of food crisis
According to the UN-Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the food crisis will have negative effects worldwide, particularly, on the political, economic and social stability if the international community does not address the problem.
The UN Food Rapporteur, Jan Zilger describes the crisis as "silent collective killing", blaming it on the rising of fuel prices as well as exports support polices, which are being adopted by the EU including other parties.
Earlier, the EU was criticized for its plans for using 10% of partial fossil fuel transfer operation by 2020. Green advocates maintain that the use of fossil fuel in lieu of natural fuel would contribute to the minimization of the global warming; however, with the current increasing world food prices, expansion in fossil fuel production could lead to decrease in the production of basic food commodities due to such policies.
Cause leading to increase in food prices
The Director of IMF said that food prices have tremendously gone up over the recent months. The climate change in a number of producer countries, as well as the use of farming lands for bio-energy purposes are the major factors. He added that hundred of thousands of people would be starved if prices continue to rise, and that tensions would occur in various poor states across the world.
The IMF President warned that shortages in food commodities would leave 100 million people poor, and that many would die of hunger. He further suggested that a work plan needs to be adopted to promote agricultural production in the long run.
Sudan's Efforts to face world food crisis
The government of Sudan has acknowledged the need to remain committed to agricultural development plan to face the food crisis and to achieve the strategic goal of making Sudan "the world food basket".
The agricultural sector has witnessed considerable growth. The state has laid importance on the agricultural sector. It has launched a project known as “green mobilization", and has announced a political commitment to such a program in 2006. The program gives the development of agricultural sector top priority. The state has earmarked 5 billion dollars for the implementation of the agricultural development programme targeting the achievement of food security.
Federal Ministry of Agriculture plans to attract both home and foreign investment in the field of agriculture through friendly companies from sister Arab countries as well as giant companies with technical and financial capabilities from countries such as India, China, Iran, Turkey and others. Further, the Ministry aims at developing infrastructure in cooperation with regional and international organization to support food security projects.
Sudan is perceived of as an outstanding and qualified state, in this respect, because of its rich and abundant natural resources.
Sudan in the Eyes of International Organizations
Taking into account the abovementioned rich natural resources, various international organizations believe that Sudan could play a significant role in achieving food security. They stressed the necessity to support the African countries known as the "Third World". “Concentration should focus on the agricultural aspect rather than providing food assistance”, argued the organizations. The president of the World Trade Organization called for the reconsideration of the ways relating to aid distribution to the underdeveloped states.
Earlier, Food conference held in (1996-1972) labeled Sudan, among other three states, as being capable of effectively contributing to achieving food security not only for the Arab world and Africa but also for the rest of the world if its resources are probably exploited. Being a member of COMESA, Sudan is also believed to play an effective role in regional trade, food security for the region and the world.
World Moves to Address Rocketing Food Prices
The UN announced the formation of special cell for following up food crisis. The cell is headed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon including heads of the UN agencies and the chief of the World Bank. Such cell is assigned with taking emergency measures to deal with the food crisis. According to UN reports, food prices have gone up by 50% over the past year. Meanwhile, 100 million estimated persons are desperate for assistance across the world.
Following the formation of the cell, the World Bank said in statement that it would double loans allocated for agricultural purposes to African countries, and that it is about to offer simple and quick loans to poor countries within the frame work of what it calls "The new deal".
On the other hand, a report issued by UNICEF called for taking swift measures to preserve the natural resources by applying environment friendly methods such as relying on local products instead of importing crops, in addition to minimizing dependence on oil. The report added that the rise in oil prices has led to rise in transfer costs on one hand and increase in producing crops used for fossil fuel on the other.
Furthermore, G-8 finance ministers agreed to spend $500 in a bid to cut the increasing food prices, which led to tensions in various counties. During their meeting in Cote d'Ivoire, the ministers indicated that half that money would be deposited in an emergency fund for cutting food prices while the remaining half would go to the West African Development Bank to invest it in agricultural projects in the coming three years.
In the wake of riots over the food prices that took place in various countries, FAO urged holding food summit to address the current crisis. On her part, Japan pledged to double its assistance to Africa. The Japanese premier said that he would urge the G-8 to adopt a unified position on dealing with the rocketing food prices. Japan provides $1.7 billion in an annual assistance to African countries.
COMESA conference approved a comprehensive program for agricultural development and food security in Africa. The conference urged the African states to put their strategies so that they are compatible with the program. It also called on each individual country to prepare document regarding agricultural policies along with projects targeting the alleviation of poverty and the realization of food security.
Will Sudan become world food basket?
Agricultural expert, Prof. Al-Amin Dafallah said Sudan is qualified to be the world food basket because the country is rich in natural resource as well as it has vast virgin arable lands. He added that production has increased over the past years because the state has placed paramount importance on the agricultural products and infrastructure. Sudan, he continued, would attain food sufficiency in the Horn of Africa if coordination is made among the countries of the region. More, Sudan will be the world food basket if capabilities are provided, and special assistance is rendered because the state has set up special plans for increasing production in crops and animal resources by developing the infrastructure.
Sudanese Agricultural Council officials attributed the rise in food prices across the globe to the current global economic crisis. According to them, Sudan is mobilizing financial and logistical efforts to achieve agricultural development nationwide. They urged the state to give priority to agriculture for the development in such field will help boost the national economy for the welfare of the entire Sudanese nation as well as the peoples of the region.
They maintained that Sudan will bring about agricultural development for the Horn of Africa if technical and logistic support is supplied.
By Zuleikha Abdel Raziq, 16/07/2012