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Friday, 15 July 2011

MEP: Change of mindset urgent to save lives in the Horn of Africa

Euro MP Thijs Berman today criticised East African governments for their lack of policies aimed at rural populations and called on the EU to prioritise food security in its development strategy. More than 10 million people are affected by a severe drought in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Djibouti and up to 12 million will be affected in the coming months, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and Oxfam. In Brussels today, representatives of these institutions presented their joint appeal to save lives from hunger and malnutrition and to build resiliency in the region. S&D spokesperson on development, Thijs Berman, said: "This crisis is the consequence of climate change, but also of the failure of policies for rural populations in these countries. "Governments have consistently neglected rural populations, which were traditionally treated with contempt by authorities in the region. Also the EU has neglected rural development for years. A few weeks ago I visited the Turkana region, in the north of Kenya, and I was appalled: I saw people digging with their hands looking for water. They receive little support even though they provide for a large part of the agricultural income in these countries. Pastoralists could live and want to live in rural areas. All they need is access to water - which could be found beneath the surface-, to health services, education and transport. They also need permission to cross borders and conflict resolution to put an end to fighting between tribes over the scarce resources. "We need more than emergency aid; we need a change of mindset in development policy. International actors must strengthen the link between humanitarian and development policies to improve coherence and effectiveness. Food security should remain a priority in the years to come."

Source: S&D Group in the European Parliament