Stoitchkov in Burkina Faso: “Beat hunger together”

European football backs EU and FAO in the fight against hunger

16 March 2011, Rome - Bulgarian football star Hristo Stoitchkov has spoken out in support of the EU and FAO's efforts to rebuild the livelihoods of people affected by the 2010 food crisis in the Sahel during a two-day visit to Burkina Faso.

With a delegation of the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), led by its Chairman Sir David Richards, the former European Footballer of the Year Stoitchkov visited several EU-funded FAO projects during two days in Burkina Faso that have helped thousands of families, hit by drought and torrential rains, return to farming.

Having found out first hand about the Sahel-crisis of 2010, which particularly affected rural populations dependent on agriculture for subsistence, Stoitchkov said: "It is vital to enable people hit by disaster to feed themselves again."

Comparing his time with FC Barcelona's 'Dream Team' in the 1990s, one of the most successful periods of the Spanish football club, to his present activities with EPFL supporting FAO and the EU in the fight against hunger, he added: "A good team wins. Together we can beat hunger."

Hunger unacceptable

"European football is taking on the responsibility that goes with its ever more prominent role in society," said Sir David Richards, who is also Chairman of the English Premier League. "We want to contribute to alleviating the plight of nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every day."

Representing the 30 largest European professional football leagues and almost 950 clubs, EPFL teamed up with FAO in 2008 launching a "Professional Football Against Hunger" campaign. Recently, they welcomed the world's biggest humanitarian donor, the European Union - Humanitarian Aid (EU), as a new partner to raise awareness about the unacceptable level of hunger among European citizens.

EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, urged "We need to do more and we must act quickly if we want to avoid adults and children dying from starvation." Commissioner Georgieva further added: "In times of economic crisis and a growing number of catastrophes, good coordination among different humanitarian actors is not only desirable; it is indispensible. It is indeed the best -and the cheapest- way to respect the commitment the world leaders have taken to end hunger."

Help people feed themselves

When disaster strikes, the EU works with FAO to help rural communities return to farming so that they can feed themselves again. Currently, FAO is operating 27 emergency projects in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle-East and Latin-America with EU-funding, for a total budget of €37 million.

In Burkina Faso, FAO received around € 1.8 million from the EU that it used to provide livestock and animal feed, as well as support to urban gardening and training, reaching some 80,000 people.

"To ensure the continued support to people in need, it is crucial to communicate on what is being done to help them," said Annika Söder, FAO's Assistant-Director General for Communication and External Relations. "Football enables us to inform a wide European audience on the humanitarian programmes involved."

Meanwhile, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital, Hristo Stoitchkov enjoyed a game of football with school children. "Football gives hope," he said. "As a kid, I also lived with hunger. As long as you play, you don't think about it."

Photo: ©FAO/Ahmed Ouoba
Help alleviate the plight of nearly one billion hungry people.