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Press Release 00/38 Joint WMO/FAO


Rome/Geneva, 29 June -- The drought stricken countries of the Horn of Africa will need long-term commitment and support from their governments, the United Nations system, donor countries and from non-governmental organizations to improve their food security and protect their people against future disasters, according to an interim report by the Inter-Agency Task Force.

The report was endorsed by the executive heads of the ten organizations of the Task Force during a meeting hosted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) at its headquarters today.

The "Inter-Agency Task Force on the UN Response to Long-Term Food Security, Agricultural Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa" was set up in April by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in response to the current crisis in the region. The Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Dr. Jacques Diouf, chairs the Task Force.

The Task Force comprises representatives from the World Bank, IFAD, UNDP, UNICEF, UNEP, WHO, WMO, WFP, ECA and FAO.

The Horn of Africa is one of the most food-insecure regions in the world. Poverty, drought, poor governance, and a debilitating series of violent conflicts have combined to produce some of the world's highest levels of malnutrition, the Task Force noted UN said.

"It will take years to prevent famine and achieve better livelihoods in the Horn of Africa," the report said. To improve nutrition and sanitation, education and health, which will open up more opportunities for economic diversification and contribute to lower population growth, will "need a long-term engagement, which spans many more years than the typical development project".

Some 13 million out of the region's 160 million people are now facing acute food insecurity or famine in the 7 countries, namely Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Almost 70 million people of the region are chronically undernourished. Nutrition has not improved over the last decades, the report stated.

Poverty is a fundamental cause of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Half of the population are estimated to live on less than US$1 per day. The four largest countries in the region receive only small amounts of development assistance, equivalent to about US$15 per person in 1997. Foreign direct investment is extremely limited.

Drought is the most catastrophic natural event, causing widespread periodic famine in the countries concerned. Agriculture and food production also suffer from floods, locust plagues and outbreaks of animal diseases.

Military conflicts have exacerbated famine and food insecurity triggered by drought. "The possibility of the diversion of funds from relief and development programmes, aiming to alleviate poverty, to war efforts remains a recurrent concern," the report noted.

Although there has been growth in some of the economies, it has so far failed to generate the resources required to address the problem of food insecurity. The poorest people and the remotest parts of the countries in the Horn of Africa have not yet benefited from policies aimed at stimulating economic growth. The focus of development resources on areas of highest potential has tended to by-pass the people who are most at risk, according to the report.

Governments and donors should make new efforts to address absolute poverty and food insecurity by providing more resources and targeting their assistance to the poorest communities, especially those living in the most neglected parts of the region, the reprt stated. Strategies for fighting hunger and malnutrition should be implemented by the governments and people of the region, with support from the UN system and donors.

The report called for the development of national strategies based on human rights and particularly the right to food. Strategies needed to focus on excluded people, the report said. Development programmes should be redirected towards the people living in remote, fragile and famine-prone areas.

To respond quickly and effectively to emergencies in the region, early warning systems needed to be strengthened, the report said. Transition from free food aid distribution to rehabilitation and development by provision of food or cash for work was crucial. Countries should consider creating strategic grain reserves, or setting aside specific budgets to buy grain. The more than 15 million pastoralists, usually the principal victims of droughts, should have better access to safe water supply, human and animal health services and to education.

Governance needed to be strengthened, and decentralization, as well as market-based policy reforms, supported. Governments should create space for the private sector, NGOs, civil society and farmers' organizations, the report mentioned.

Better transport and communication infrastructures are urgently needed and countries should invest in small-scale irrigation. Public services for health and education should be improved.

And the flow of arms should be controlled and swift and effective forms of mediation developed.

The Task Force is due to present a final action plan for the Horn of Africa by the beginning of October after consultations with countries, UN and other international and national organizations.


For more information please contact:

Taysir Al-Ghanem,
Chief, Information & Public Affairs
World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
7 bis, Avenue de la Paix, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 730 8315 Fax: (41 22) 7308027 E-mail:

Nick Parsons,
Chief, Media Relations
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Terme di Caracalla 00100 Rome, Italy
Tel: 003906 5705 3625 FAX: 0039 06-5705 5924 0039 06-5705 3699

Also see the Task Force website:

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