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Spotlight on Africa's Problems is Welcome

Spotlight on Africa's Problems is Welcome, UN Officials Say

New York, Jul 5 2005 5:00PM

Welcoming the spotlight thrown on Africa's problems by this week's Group of 8 (G8) Summit in Scotland, United Nations officials today said Africa had never faced such vast challenges.

At a news briefing in Geneva, UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume asked "Why does Africa need help?" and answered, "Because Africa has never been worse off."

She noted Africa had received publicity from both last Saturday's Live 8 concerts and the 6 to 8 July summit in Gleneagles, and she expressed the hope that the G8 meeting would raise the financial support and the level of engagement from the participating countries.

While the rest of the developing world had made progress in the fight against poverty and hunger, she said, the situation in Africa continued to deteriorate, with one-third of the 852 million Africans suffering from malnutrition, two-thirds of the world's AIDS cases occurring on that continent and with the capacity of its Governments weakening.

Each year 6 million Africans died from preventable causes, such as malnutrition, unsafe water, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, she added. HIV/AIDS had taken the lives of one-third of health workers in Lesotho and was killing 2,000 teachers each year in Zambia, while a total of 8 million African farmers, more than the total number of farmers in Europe and North America, had died in the pandemic.

Despite the alarming numbers, WFP had received only $67 million out of the $405 million it needed for Africa this year, she said.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), welcoming the G-8 Summit in Gleneagles, saw a mixed picture on the continent, with most sub-Saharan countries likely to miss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing or eliminating a large number of social ills by 2015, but with many countries having put in place improved governance, accountability and aid management and being on track to meet some of the targets.

"The introduction of more rigorous expenditure and tracking systems in several countries has improved the quality of social spending, boosting, for example, school enrolment in places such as Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda and Mozambique," it said.

Over the past decade African economies had grown at an annual average rate of 3.7 per cent, "the highest in the world," but the continent needed an annual average growth rate of 7 per cent to produce a sustainable effect on poverty reduction, it said.

Reducing poverty in Africa was not just a question of doubling aid. While its value in meeting the MDGs could not be minimized, the quality of aid had been compromised by donors' restrictive delivery methods and by poor governance on the part of beneficiary countries, ECA said.

"Regional integration could help to overcome some of these problems," it added.


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