Glenys Kinnock rails at Geldof over aid

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Indy Politics

Glenys Kinnock delivered a scathing counter-blast last night to Bob Geldof's condemnation of the European Union's "pathetic and appalling" response to Ethiopia's food crisis.

The wife of the former Labour leader denounced Mr Geldof's "misinformed and unhelpful" comments as out-of-date. The Band Aid founder had warned that of a repeat of "the horror of the Eighties", in which hundreds of thousands died, if the EU failed to act.

But Mrs Kinnock, Labour international development spokeswoman in the European Parliament, said there was no comparison between this crisis and the 1984-85 famine.

She said: "Criticism of EU aid has all too often been justified and necessary. However, Bob Geldof's comments about the current situation in Ethiopia are both unhelpful and misinformed." She praised Mr Geldof as a "fine advocate" of the need to eradicate poverty, but said he had ignored increases in EU aid budgets.

"In recent years both the speed and quality of the response has been significantly improved, although there can always, of course, be further improvements. The European Commission has pledged 109 million euros [£76m] over 400,000 tons of food aid - for this year alone. This is, clearly, neither pathetic nor appalling."

She added: "The EU is providing 41 per cent of the total amount of food aid and other assistance offered to Ethiopia. Contrary to his assertions, the European Commission does of course supply supplementary food such as cooking oil, as well as non-food items."

Arriving in Ethiopia on Tuesday, Mr Geldof said: "The EU have been pathetic and appalling, and I thought we had dealt with that 20 years ago, when the electorates of our countries said never again."

Mr Geldof is on a tour of Ethiopia to highlight the plight of those facing famine. He said the timing of his mission was intended as a "wake- up call" to this weekend's G8 summit in Evian, France.

Demanding that the EU "release whatever foods it can and get them here as a matter of urgency", he added: "I can guarantee that everyone will not want to see the horror of what we saw in the 80s, and it will truly happen."

The UN children's aid agency, Unicef, has warned that Ethiopia is in the middle of a humanitarian emergency with 14 million people, many of them children, reliant on food aid. It estimates there are 60,000 to 80,000 severely malnourished children in the country.