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Press Release 00/22


Rome, 7 April 2000 - The Secretary-General announced today the establishment of a Task Force on the UN Response to Long-term Food Security, Agriculture Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa in relation to the present drought crisis in the area. The Task Force will develop a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the effects of recurrent drought and to achieve lasting food security in the region. "This time, we are stressing the importance of prevention," said the Secretary-General, "so that we may never again face the spectre of walking skeletons." The Secretary-General has appointed the Director-General of UN Food and Agricultural Organization, Dr. Jacques Diouf to chair the Task Force.

Throughout 1999 and early 2000, the United Nations system has issued early alerts regarding the gravity of the food situation in the Horn of Africa through the Global Information and Early Warning System. That situation has now developed into a major crisis. Some 16 million people in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania are facing a grave humanitarian crisis of serious proportions. Persistent drought and poor rainfall, coupled with the effects of conflict and insecurity, have devastated crops and livestock, eroded food stocks in the region, which also plays host to several thousand refugees and internally displaced persons.

As previously announced, Ms. Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the Drought in the Horn of Africa, is travelling to the region from 11-19 April to raise public awareness of the deteriorating situation and the growing threat of famine, seek commitments from governments and other parties to enable access for humanitarian agencies, as well as to look into the manner in which the immediate response may lay the groundwork for longer-term food security in the region.

The longer term issue is to address the underlying structural issues to ensure that future droughts do not necessarily lead to famine. For this reason, the Task Force, which is convened under the auspices of the Secretariat of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), chaired by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, comprises representatives from UNDP, FAO, WFP, IFAD, the World Bank, ECA, WMO, UNEP, WHO and UNICEF. The Task Force will consult closely with governments concerned as well as regional organizations, including the Organization of African Unity, Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Development Bank.

The first meeting of the Task Force held today at WFP Headquarters in Rome discussed the method of work, the information system, the modalities of implementation and resource mobilization issues to address the present and future problems. The second session will be held in Geneva, on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly from 26 to 30 June 2000. A report will be presented in time for the ACC to be held in October in New York.


Enquiries should be directed to:
FAO Media-Office (
John Riddle, 0039-06-5705 3259, John.Riddle@FAO.Org

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