WFP Head Calls for Aid Beyond Emergencies, Launches Partnership with Japanese Jazz Artist
TOKYO - Calling for international support to use humanitarian aid more wisely to overcome Africa s food crises, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, James T. Morris, said the final goal of aid organisations must be self-reliance for the African people.
Morris said that aid, including food, should be used not just as a bandaid in emergencies but packaged into strategies for rebuilding communities, the local economy and agricultural development so that people can better cope when disasters strike. More than any other continent, Africa is prone to cyclical drought and other weather disturbances which decimate food production.
Responding to emergencies is not enough, said Morris, who was in Tokyo to participate in The International Conference on African Development (TICAD) III, a three-day conference bringing together African leaders, top officials from the Japanese government and the United Nations. We need to work in the quiet times as well, on long-term projects that root out hunger, poverty and dependency.
Morris, who was appointed the UN Secretary-General s Special Envoy to the Southern Africa crisis in 2002, said the payoff of this approach can be seen in parts of Ethiopia where communities with completed WFP food-for-work projects recently survived severe drought better than communities without such programmes.
Farming communities that had looked after their water conservation and land management systems were not left totally helpless when the rains failed, Morris said. They were still able to produce a crop, although reduced, thanks to their earlier efforts.
Morris said Africa is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in history, with over 40 million people going hungry this year and the need for aid hitting unprecedented levels. WFP, for example, needs US$2 billion, equal to its total budget worldwide for 2002, just to meet Africa s food needs in 2003.
Citing the particular scourge that HIV/AIDS has brought to Africa, Morris noted that food aid is used to build a safety net for the affected families. Meals in school, nutritional supplements and income training programmes (complemented with food), help those families, especially the women and children, become better equipped to face the future both during and after the loss of those with the disease.
The combination of HIV/AIDS and hunger has taken a vicious toll on Zambia, for example, where more than half the number of children under age five are stunted from malnutrition. Zambia has the highest number of orphans in the world, between 830,000 and 1.2 million.
Morris urged heightened attention to Africa s problems, and expressed gratitude to the many individuals and groups who have stepped forward to help. Today he announced the launch of a new humanitarian partnership with popular contemporary jazz artist Keiko Matsui. Matsui, an award-winning pianist and composer, is dedicating her upcoming concert tours as well as a song on her new album to WFP s work for the poor and hungry people of Africa.
This is a partnership that harnesses the power of music to address humanitarian needs, said Morris, who announced together with Matsui that she will generously donate all royalties from the song, titled Wildflower to WFP for its operations in Africa. She will also dedicate exclusively to WFP an upcoming compilation CD of previously released material, scheduled to go on sale in early 2004.
I decided I wanted to give my support to WFP after learning about the tremendous problems in Africa and how humanitarian assistance can change people s lives for the better, Matsui said. So much help is needed there, particularly for the children who have been orphaned or abandoned because of war and AIDS.
Matsui will undertake a concert tour in the United States in early 2004 during which the Wildflower and compilation CDs will be sold at the performance venues. Matsui will also have WFP donation boxes prominently displayed at her concerts during her upcoming tours in Japan in November and in Eastern Europe in December.
I have been to Africa and seen how much suffering there is because of war, AIDS and drought. I want to share with my audiences the tremendous humanitarian needs in Africa and what WFP is doing to make people s live better, said Matsui.
Tokyo-born Matsui is the winner of The Oasis Awards for Best Female Artist of the Year (2000) and was cited as the Top Contemporary Jazz Artist of the Year by Billboard Magazine in 1996. She announced her partnership with WFP at a press conference today with WFP chief Morris.
We at WFP are delighted
with these gifts of Ms. Matsui s time, attention and creative
energy, said Morris. She is bringing an awareness
to her many fans of the importance of humanitarian aid in Africa.
When she speaks about hunger and poverty in Africa, her words
will go around the world.
For more information please contact: