Two decades on, Geldof returns to ailing Ethiopia

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The Independent Online

Bob Geldof arrived in Ethiopia this morning, his first return in nearly 20 years to the people and land whose plight he championed. As he left Heathrow yesterday, the musician and activist spoke with his usual candour, describing present food aid donations - particularly from the European Union - as "pathetic".

Two decades after his first visit inspired Band Aid and Live Aid, Geldof said he was determined to publicise the millions again facing starvation. Figures from the UN children's aid agency, Unicef, suggest Ethiopia is in the middle of a humanitarian emergency with 14 million people, many of them children, dependent on food aid.

His five-day mission, which begins in Addis Ababa, is timed to raise public interest ahead of the G8 summit of the main industrialised nations in Evian, France, on 1 June.

"The G8 meeting is going to be somewhat characterised by political spite and backbiting over what has happened in Iraq," the former Boomtown Rat said. "But meanwhile, further south is another country which is facing an utter catastrophe this summer because it has failed to receive more than two-thirds of the food requirements that were promised."

He agreed the US and British governments were at the forefront of helping to improve the situation in Africa, but he said it was wrong to prioritise the fight on terrorism. "If there is a war on terror then there has to be a war on poverty," he said.

A spokeswoman for Unicef added: "The reason he is going is to give a wake-up call to the international community."

Geldof, who raised many millions for the famine- stricken country in the 1980s, will visit several projects, including therapeutic feeding centres in the south, and operations aimed at making water safe to drink. The musician received an honorary knighthood in 1986 for his humanitarian efforts.