Saturday, October 16, 2004

World Food Day Saturday October 16: Name and shame the countries not contributing towards aid

On World Food Day, Saturday October 16, citizens of America and Britain can be proud of the contributions made by their countrymen and governments for the victims of Darfur.

The British have provided generous funding, several emergency plane loads of aid, logistical and financial support to AU troops, thousands of man hours of teeth gritting diplomacy, months of hard work by many British organisations, groups, charities, churches along with UK's 12 largest aid agencies and their aid workers on the ground who have risked (and some lost) their lives to help.

Plus, in addition to Prime Minister Tony Blair's historic visit to Khartoum, the highest ranking Western leader to meet with Sudan's government in Khartoum - and the first visit by a British leader since Sudan's independence in 1956 - he has pledged a further £100 million for next year if peace is agreed.

Last time I checked, the British were the second largest, after the U.S., cash donors for Darfur. The response of the British public and government has been huge, especially considering Britain is a small island that size wise could easily fit into the State of Texas.

Today (Friday) the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a donation of $57 million in humanitarian assistance for Darfur. Total U.S. assistance for Darfur now stands at more than $302 million.

The U.S. is the largest contributor to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and to date has provided more than 186,000 metric tons of food aid for Darfur, valued at more than $170 million. For more information on USAID's ongoing efforts in Darfur please visit

It would be interesting to note the contributions made by China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Algeria, Brazil and the Arab nations. Given that China has huge oil interests in Sudan and operations in the vicinity Darfur, it seems strange that the Chinese are not a major donor. China sits on the U.N. Security Council but, like others, seems to be getting away with contributing very little, if anything.

Also, India are doing great business with Sudan, doing deals, signing contracts and laying oil pipelines in Sudan. How much has India contributed to the humanitarian effort in Darfur and what is India, and the other countries just mentioned, doing to help the world's poorest nations?

And what about Sudan itself? It is super rich in oil and minerals with hundreds of millions spare dollars to spend on weaponary and MiGs from Russia. How come it is a member of the U.N. and does not buy food for its own people?

The U.N. asked donors for $300 million to help Darfur but to date has received only half. Some countries pledged contributions but have not paid up. The U.N., or someone, ought to name and shame those countries so the spotlight and pressure can be put upon them by the public, media and bloggers.

Today, to mark World Food Day on Saturday October 16, WFP, the world's largest humanitarian agency, tells the media that the plight of hundreds of millions of hungry people around the world has been overshadowed by the crisis in Darfur.

In one news report, WFP Executive Director James Morris emphasized his concern for the victims of Darfur, but he also stressed that for every hungry child who made world news headlines there were millions more who went unnoticed.

He was quoted as saying: "WFP is calling for a new focus on the "routine hungry", the people left without enough food, not because of natural disasters or conflict, but simply because they are too poor to provide for themselves and their families. These people -- who make up more than 90 percent of the world's hungry -- are hit even harder when high-profile emergencies take up the bulk of donor aid budgets."

Also today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the mortality rate in Darfur will not fall (70,000 deaths reported so far - 10,000 dying each month) unless countries provide more money.

“We are running on a threadbare, hand-to-mouth existence, and if the plight of these people in Darfur is as important to the international community as it seems to be then we would have expected more long-term support,” said Dr. David Nabarro, head of Who’s crisis operations.

The U.S. and U.K. have gone to a great deal of time, trouble, effort and expense to help the people of Sudan, and have given hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. Many other countries have also contributed generously. But today the U.N., WFP and WHO are saying people are dying from disease and starvation because of lack of funding. Last time I checked, WFP had 800 milllion USD in its coffers. What exactly is going on, does anybody know?

The U.N. comprises 191 member states. Surely, if they are not already doing so, member states ought to agree on paying a set sum each year to help feed the world. A fixed percentage, according to ability to pay, i.e. the wealthiest pay most and the poorest pay zero. That way, wealthy countries like China could end up being major donors.

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