Source Pravda.Ru

Humanitarian Catastrophe in Africa as Money is Channeled into Arms

As the USA and UK spend millions in their preparations to wage war on Iraq and NATO countries go on a spending spree to modernise their military arsenals, the World Food Programme has been forced to reduce its Food Aid Programmes in Africa due to lack of funding.

The UN High Commissioner for efugees has alerted the international community that there are 1.2 million refugees in Africa, stating that there are growing causes for concern that a forthcoming military conflict in Iraq will channel much-needed funds away from UN aid programmes.

The World Food Programme’s Deputy Executive Director, Jean-Jacques Graisse, backed up these concerns, stating "As new emergencies arise, the interest in these long-standing cases tends to fade, leaving refugees on the brink of hunger."

The WFP claims that if it does not receive 112,000 tonnes of food worth 84 million USD in the next six months, there will be “severe hunger” among refugees. This in turn will have catastrophic human consequences: "Refugee children risk to be sent out to work to supplement the family's reduced rations while women and girls may be forced to engage in exploitative relationships," warned UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner, Kamel Morjane.

Food stocks are expected to reach breaking point by the end of March in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria and Sudan, where most of the continent’s refugees are living precariously.

A new conflict in the Central African Republic has worsened the situation in the region, complicated further by an Ebola outbreak in the Congo and renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 20,000 refugees have poured over the Car border into Chad after fighting broke out between government forces and rebels who support the former Chief of Staff, Francois Bozize, who is claimed to have taken the northern town of Bozoum. In addition to these refugees, there are thousands of internally displaced persons, according to the UNHCR.

In the Kelle District in north-western Congo, the Ebola outbreak, confirmed by laboratories, has already claimed 64 lives among 80 cases. As the numbers rise, the government in Brazzaville has called on the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to assist.

A renewed surge in fighting in the north-eastern region of the Denmocratic republic of the Congo has caused 500,00 internally displaced persons, fleeing from heavy fighting between the government forces and the UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots), in the region of Ituri, bordering on Uganda. There are claims that the UPC leader, Thomas Lubanga, who claims authority over the whole region, has ties with forces controlled by Kampala. Amos Namanga Ngongi, the UN Special Envoy for the DR Congo, declared in Kinshasa yesterday that there was extreme concern at the “extraordinary human suffering” in the Ituri region.

Meanwhile the situation in West Africa is deteriorating. Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, declared at the UN Headquarters in New York after returning from a five-nation assessment tour on the situation in the ivory Coast, "We are very concerned about the breakdown of society in the country, and my sense is that even should the peace accord suddenly jump into life, it would take months if not more than a year to stabilize the population and the country."

The rebels refuse to restart peace talks with the government of Laurent Gbagbo, who they accuse of sabotaging previous peace plans, although he has declared that he is willing to accept the spirit of the Linas Morcoussis Agreement on a ceasefire. The fighting has caused serious tension in the region, since the government forces took revenge on the rebels by attacking the 200,000 to 300,000 foreign nationals living and working on the cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, which was the world’s leading exporter of the product until the fighting broke out last year. There are fears that an international conflict could break out in the whole region.

Finally, in Zimbabwe, the murderous and oppressive regime of Robert Mugabe has led six million people to the brink of starvation in the coming months unless urbent food aid is received.

However, certain countries are more intent on spending billions of USD in illegal attacks on sovereign states than in paying what they owe to the UNO. After all, how important are the resources of the Ivory Coast compared with Iraq ?

Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru