Letter: Humanitarian aid efforts in Afghanistan and Burundi

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard Dowden's report ('Burundi looks for UN 'miracle' to avert famine', 16 February) highlights the plight of hundreds of thousands of Burundians - many of whom could face a famine of possibly Somali proportions if food aid does not reach them within the next few weeks.

As Mr Dowden points out, Burundi has not been accorded priority by donor governments as the country occupies limited international significance on the world stage. It is unacceptable that people's lives should hang in the balance - dependent on the level of importance accorded to their country by international powers.

Actionaid has transported more than 180 tonnes of bean seed into the country for planting and a second consignment is on its way. Many other charities from around the world are working ceaselessly to supply emergency help. Even these combined efforts cannot prevent a predicted famine unless the international community responds immediately to Burundi's need and supports the forthcoming UN appeal.

Government aid should be disbursed on the basis of humanitarian and not political criteria. If this is not the case - and the evidence from Pergau suggests that it is not - the result, as in Burundi, is that poor people will suffer the consequences.

Yours faithfully,

MARTIN GRIFFITHS

Actionaid

London, N19

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