WEST AFRICA: Saudi donation to help alleviate hunger

Friday, September 22, 2006
Saudi Arabia has donated US $10 million to the World Food Programme to help fight hunger in eight West African countries and boost school feeding programmes.

"This assistance to the WFP, especially at this particular time when there is hunger in the West African region, would go a long way in supporting our food aid programs within the region where aid is highly needed,” Mustapha Darboe, West Africa regional director of WFP, told reporters on Tuesday.

The cash donation is to help Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Drought, conflict and high prices for staple foods have made millions of people in the 16-nation region struggle to feed themselves, WFP said. Chronic poverty is widespread – about one in two people live on less than US $1 a day. The region has the lowest life expectancy at birth, according the UN Human Development Report.

WFP said more than half of the Saudi funds are destined for the Sahel countries, where malnutrition continues to take its toll among children. Niger and Mauritania are to receive US $2 million each. US $1.5 million was allocated to Mali. Senegal is to receive US $1 million for the troubled southern region of Casamance to assist refugees, IDPs and more than 100,000 children in the school feeding program.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is concerned about the hunger” in West Africa, said Abdulaziz Arukban, Saudi Arabia’s special international ambassador for WFP. “Children are dying because of hunger and we would like to see an improvement of this situation and that is why we are intervening and working to assist UN agencies to bring relief to these poorest people who need something to eat."

He said the school-feeding program was an important way to encourage vulnerable and hungry children to get an education.

Liberia, for example, has a rigorous WFP school-feeding programme. Many parents cannot afford food for their children as the nation emerges from a 14-year civil war.

WFP said it plans to assist more than half a million Liberian children in about 2,000 schools.
Author: IRIN
Source: IRIN
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