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Amadou And Mariam Aim To Be ‘Flag-Bearers’ For Hungry Poor

Malian WFP Ambassadors Amadou and Mariam during their recent tour in Europe. Copyright: WFP/Rein Skullerud

African pop duo Amadou and Mariam, who launched their new single Labendela in Rome on Monday, say their new role as Ambassadors Against Hunger for the EU allows them to be “flag-bearers” for the fight against hunger and poverty in countries such as their native Mali.

ROME -- African pop duo Amadou and Mariam, who launched their new single Labendela in Rome on Monday, say their new role as Ambassadors Against Hunger  for the EU allows them to be “flag-bearers”  for the fight against hunger and poverty in countries such as their native Mali.

“We come from Mali, and Africa in general has a lot of problems of drought,  malnutrition, under-nutrition,” said Amadou just before Monday’s concert at Rome’s Terme di Caracalla.  “Coming from underprivileged areas, we can be the flag-bearers. We are happy to become spokespeople to tell the world about these issues.” 

The musician, who met performing partner Mariam in 1976 at a school for blind in Paris, said he was convinced that music could be a great channel for the hunger message. 

Message through music

“Songs are a message and singers are the people who announce those messages to the world through their music .  Through these messages we can tell people how to fight hunger in the world,” he said.

Amadou and Mariam,  established stars on the World Music scene for a decade now, dedicated their new song Labendela to WFP and the fight against hunger.

“The meaning of the song is very important. We have to fight against hunger in the world and we have to hold one another’s hand.  Hand in hand, we can feed the children and women too. That is the meaning of Labendela,” she said.

The singing duo said their recent trip to Haiti, to see WFP’s work with victims of the 2010 earthquake had made a powerful impression on them.“ We met a child who lost his parents, he didn’t have any family left. The only thing he had was his guitar and he played that guitar for us. That really touched us,” Amadou said. 

Move hearts

“One reason Amadou & Mariam are so important is that they bring a message of hope to the francophone world,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. ”They can speak to places like Cote d’Ivoire, where so many woman need help, or to the people of Haiti, who still don’t have a home. Celebrities can move the hearts of the world.”

As Ambassadors Against Hunger for the EU, Amadou and Mariam advocate specifically in European countries. Last year, 345,000 children and mothers were helped by WFP’s partnership with the EU, Sheeran noted, thanking the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission (ECHO) and its chief, EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.