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WFP chief warns Africa's food crises a threat to peace and security


UNITED NATIONS_ With one African in three malnourished, the prevalence of hunger is an accurate barometer for the level of social instability in the continent, warned WFP Executive Director James T. Morris.

"It does not matter whether that instability is caused by civil conflict, drought, AIDS, poor governance or any combination of those factors-hunger almost always comes with it," Morris said during a speech to the Security Council today.

At the same time, he warned that in turn, chronic hunger in the African countryside had become a destabilizing influence undermining peace and security. In particular, he said it spurred the continuing migration of rural people into cities where the existence of at least some basic social services acted as a lure.

"The impact of rural-urban migration on employment in Africa has been precisely the opposite of Western Europe and the United States-it has led to higher rather than lower rates of unemployment and social instability.

"At a certain point the capacities of local governments are stretched to the limit and social demands are not met, especially among competing ethnic groups perhaps not accustomed to sharing the same political space."

Morris singled out the southern Africa region as being particularly vulnerable and deserving of international attention. "The greatest humanitarian crisis we face today is the gradual disintegration of the social structures in southern Africa."

"A lethal mix of AIDS, recurring drought and failing governance is creating insecurity. Last year alone, one million lives were lost to AIDS in the region and we are only now entering the peak impact period for the pandemic." He added that AIDS is undermining the capacity of communities to produce enough food and that in many rural villages the land lies fallow with no one to till it.

Morris estimated that the number of people in need of emergency food aid in southern Africa had risen from 3.5 million earlier this year to 8.3 million with the return of drought conditions in some areas-4 million in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million in Malawi, 1.2 million in Zambia, 900,000 in Mozambique, 245,000 in Lesotho, 230,000 in Swaziland, and 60,000 in Namibia.

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.

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