Letter: Africa's famine and Britain's duty

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard Dowden's article ('There is still time to save lives in Africa', 2 July) is correct and timely. From our visits this spring, we can confirm that Africa is facing a food crisis more widespread than in 1991 and threatening the lives of 40 million people.

The agreement by the G7 to provide a dollars 24bn package of credits and debt relief to Russia is most welcome. However, Africa also merits greater international aid. It is worth remembering that, according to the latest available figures, the average GDP per capita in the former Soviet Union was dollars 5,000 compared to a meagre dollars 458 for sub-Saharan Africa.

Halfway through 1992 it is a serious question whether the rich governments will come to Africa's aid as they have usually, if belatedly, done in the past. Television pictures of crises nearer home may have led politicians, as well as the average viewer, to believe that the most serious problems lie in our own continent. But the Ethiopian farmer or the Zambian mother are given little opportunity to remind us of the deeper poverty they constantly suffer.

A second big push is needed by food aid donors, matching the scale of the African food deficit so much greater than last year's. Britain has already exceeded its usual food aid budget but the Treasury should offer additional funds to the Overseas Development Administration to meet the crisis.

The 680,000 tonnes of food aid agreed for Africa by the EC in May should urgently be matched by an equal round of pledges by individual EC member states.

As current holder of the presidency of the European Community, Britain has the responsibility for urging its fellow members to meet this target before the EC's long summer recess and before famine grips Africa.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL TAYLOR, Director, Christian Aid; JULIAN FILOCHOWSKI, Director, Cafod; DAVID BRYER, Director, Oxfam; JENNY ROSSITER, Programme Officer, Save The Children

London, SE1

9 July