ROME, 15 May 2002 -- Urban poverty and hunger are reaching alarming levels in cities of the Horn of Africa. Urban populations are expected to double in the next ten years, and action by governments, local authorities and the private sector is urgently needed to improve access to food by the urban poor.

This was the message from ministers, mayors and planners from the seven Horn of Africa countries , who on 10 May, 2002 signed a declaration recognizing the problems and pointing to needed action. The signing ceremony came at the end of a three day workshop on "Feeding Cities in the Horn of Africa" held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7-9 May 2002, organized by the Addis Ababa City Administration, funded by the World Bank Horn of Africa Food Security Initiative and facilitated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In the Horn of Africa more than half the population survives on less than US$1 per day. Over 40 percent of the 160 million people suffer from chronic food insecurity, and it is estimated that more than half of the dwellers of the capital cities - at least 7 million people - are poor and hungry.

"We cannot afford to ignore the dramatic poverty in which the majority of our urban dwellers live. The future of our children is at stake. Our interventions and investments must be effective and sustainable" Ato Ali Abdo, Mayor of Addis Ababa, told the Workshop. And his colleague, Joe Akech, Deputy Mayor of Nairobi, added: "In cities, access to food is mainly about income and employment. We need to foster investment in the urban economy which will create jobs and lift the poor out of hunger".

According to FAO, cities are the principal markets for food produced in rural and peri-urban areas, and without a healthy and vibrant urban economy rural development efforts will also suffer. Therefore, it is crucial that central and local governments work in partnership.

In the declaration from Addis Ababa the participants emphasized that the availability, safety and affordability of food can only be enhanced through sound policies and programmes at national, regional and urban levels. In addition the participants acknowledged the need to make urban food security a high priority in future planning, to involve all stakeholders, revise relevant laws, encourage income-generating opportunities to increase the incomes of the urban poor and to include environmental and health considerations when dealing with feeding the cities. And the participants suggested that the forthcoming "World Food Summit: five years later" to be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome (10-13 June) puts urban food insecurity on its agenda.

The need for a substantial increase in investment in urban food security by both public and private sectors emerged from discussions. FAO plans to respond by bringing the results of the Workshop to the attention of financing institutions and bilateral donors for possible funding of pilot projects in the cities.

The Addis Ababa workshop had participants from five of the seven governments, local authorities, representatives of international aid organizations and UN agencies. It was a follow-up to the Horn of Africa Task Force on long-term food security, launched by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in April 2000 and chaired by Jacques Diouf. In addition it was one of a series of similar initiatives undertaken by FAO on food supply and distribution to cities in various regions. A seminar addressing food security in Francophone African cities was held in 1997 in Dakar, Senegal.