NGOs Welcome Government Response to Food Crises in Africa
21 May 2012 at 3:02 pm
Millions of people are food insecure in the West Africa region. Andy Hall/Oxfam
Australian aid agencies have welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement to contribute an additional $16 million of funding to respond to the escalating humanitarian crises in Africa.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr made the announcement late last week and said that the money assist millions of people affected by drought, local conflict, and the collapse of local markets.
“It is excellent that Australia is increasing its contribution to the international efforts to these escalating humanitarian crises,” executive director of Oxfam Australia, Andrew Hewett, said.
CARE Australia chief executive, Dr Julia Newton-Howes, said that the announcement comes at a critical time for the region.
“The funding will meet immediate humanitarian needs and help to build up the resilience of communities to future droughts, and thereby gradually reducing the need for outside assistance. Both these approaches are critical,” Newton-Howes said.
“In South Sudan, as the rainy season approaches a new set of problems could appear. The rains cut people off from vital services, like medical care, food and clean water.
“Continued support to South Sudan’s vulnerable population is essential as they not only fight for their own livelihoods, but the families also offer support to internally displaced people and returnees and share what little they have.”
The funding announcement comes following a hit to the Australian aid sector in which the Federal Government deferred its commitment to foreign aid in the May 9 Budget, saving the Government a reported $2.9 billion over four years.
However Minister Carr said that the money will provide food supplies like cereals, pulses and oils to immunisation, health screening and training for local medical staff.
"We must act now to prevent a large-scale loss of life,” Carr said.
"The world has a responsibility to help the millions hit hard by the simple lack of food and medical aid.”
Aid agencies United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Oxfam, Save the Children, Plan International and CARE will receive $10 million to respond to the Sahel region food crisis where up to 16 million people are in need of assistance, Senator Carr said.
He said the remaining $6 million will support the United Nations' World Food Programme in South Sudan, as many as 4.7 million people — around half the population – will soon require urgent food supplies due to high local prices, poor harvests and local conflicts.
“This increase in aid will bring Australia's total humanitarian assistance to the current Sahel and South Sudanese food crises to $31 million since the beginning of 2012,” Senator Carr said.