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U.N. Relief Chief Accuses the West of Neglecting Africa; Food Aid Funding Lacking in Ethiopia; Young Liberian Human Rights Activist Receives Reebok Award

Aired May 14, 2005 - 12:30:00   ET


TUMI MAKGABO, HOST: The United Nations' humanitarian agency accuses the world of neglecting humanitarian crises in Africa. So what's being done to change that?
And how is the world responding to a new appeal for Ethiopia? We have an up close and personal view to their nightmare of starvation.

And we'll hear from the head of the U.N. Relief Agency, Jan Egeland on the world's response to the continent's humanitarian needs.

These stories and more ahead on this edition of INSIDE AFRICA.

Hello, good to have you join us. I'm Tumi Makgabo.

In the spotlight this week, is the world neglecting emergency situations in Africa? Well, according to the head of the United Nations Relief Agency, Jan Egeland, the answer is yes. U.N. organizations are usually in the forefront of organizing and distributing aid right across the globe, aid that usually comes from national governments, mostly in the West. But the U.N. humanitarian Chief Jan Egeland told the Security Council this week that relief projects in Africa are grossly under funded.

So does this signal a double standard in global relief operations?


MAKGABO (voice over): Jan Egeland is becoming increasingly known for being frank.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Egeland, you used the word "stingy" earlier this week to describe the response of donor countries.

MAKGABO: Back in December, he criticized the United States for, as he put it, "being stingy" in its initial contribution to the Indian Ocean tsunami relief effort. Now the straight-talking U.N. relief chief is at it again, this time accusing rich nations of discriminating against Africa.

JAN EGELAND, U.N. RELIEF CHIEF: There is an in-built discrimination in the sense that, as I said, if we all agree that a human life is the same value wherever he or she is born, there should be this same attention to northern Uganda as to northern Iraq.

MAKGABO: Egeland once called the situation in northern Uganda, "the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world." In nearly every town in this region thousands of children flee their homes every night to avoid being abducted by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, the LRA.

John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group was recently in the area.

JOHN PRENDERGAST, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: It's one of the most haunting scenes one could possibly imagine on earth. Standing in the middle of any town in northern Uganda, and just as the sun starts to set, you see this stream, this procession of children with their little belongings on their back.

MAKGABO: The children who are not fortunate enough to escape the LRA are usually forced into the rebel army, becoming part of the group's campaign of killing and maiming innocent residents. This has forced nearly one million people into camps for the displaced. The U.N. says it needs nearly $160 million to deal with the crisis. But according to Jan Egeland, to date only, 34 percent of that amount has been received.

EGELAND: We are attending in general better to deal with the current crisis if they happened in Europe, or if they even happened in the Middle East, than if they happened in Africa.

MAKGABO: Sudan is another major concern for the U.N. humanitarian agency. Just this week, the Security Council was told that different factions in the western Darfur region are still committing atrocities.

HDI ANNABI, ASSISTANT UNDERSEC. GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: Attacks on civilians, rape, kidnapping and banditry actually increased from the previous month.

MAKGABO: Those who managed to escape often turn to the refugee camps in neighboring Chad. And Egeland says the U.N. is $350 million short of what is needed to deal with the Darfur crisis.

In southern Sudan, where refugees are returning after a peace deal ended two decades of fighting, Egeland says there is a massive shortfall of $550 million to help returnees resettle. In other areas, the U.N. says it's received 6 percent of the nearly $24 million needed for the Central African Republic, 8 percent of the $164 million needed for Somalia, and 22 percent of the $201 million needed for Democratic Republic Of Congo.

According to Egeland this "discrimination," his word, cannot continue. He says too many people are dying because too little funding is available. Or that funding simply arrives too late.


MAKGABO: Well, Egeland says nearly four-fifths of recent U.N. humanitarian appeals have addressed African problems. But the response has also been slow to nearly non-existent.

Jan Egeland joined us earlier this week to talk more about his allegations.


MAKGABO (on camera): First off, let's talk about the question of discrimination. Some pretty harsh words, if you will, from you saying that the West is discriminating against Africa. Wouldn't you say that that's taking it a little far?

EGELAND: No, because I sit here with the figures showing that nearly all of the really under funded emergency appeals that we have are in Africa. All of the neglected crises in the world are in Africa; the places where we cut rations to children, food rations. Where we cannot immunize are predominantly in Africa.

We often ask for only a few million dollars for very vital lifesaving programs and we don't get the money. I think if northern Uganda had been in Europe, or if the Congo had been in the Middle East, we would have gotten another response.

MAKGABO: We've seen images of these children being forced to flee their villages at night in order to be protected from the LRA. And all sorts of scenarios like that coming out of northern Uganda. Why is it that's still not enough to compel the Western countries, those who sit on the money, to in fact be more committed?

EGELAND: Well, what I called northern Uganda was the world's largest neglected crisis. And it is precisely a case of an enormous story that is not told, not even in the news media to a sufficient degree, in my view. Where else in the world have 20,000 children been kidnapped in recent years to be made into killing machines on behalf of a terrorist organizations? In this case called the Lord's Resistance Army? Why do we have to cut food rations in June if we don't get more money, in such a kind of a crisis, but northern Uganda?

MAKGABO: If I can just coming in there, you say that you'll have to cut food rations if you don't get the money. When you present this to various member states at the U.N., what is their response?

EGELAND: Well, their response, often in the end, is that we get belatedly enough resources to avoid this cut of rations. What we do not get is the sufficient money to put the situation right. We do not either have, I find in Africa, a real effort to put security forces on the ground that can protect the civilian populations, nor a coherent political strategy between U.N. and the big powers of the world and the African Union to really force the government and the rebels to sit down and make peace agreements.

MAKGABO: You talk about providing security. Darfur is in the fore of many people's minds, the question of greater security being provided on the ground. But that's perhaps just half of the issue. The other half is that all these people who lived in Darfur have fled to neighboring Chad provide -- resulting in a major crisis there. A great strain on resources in that country. What is the situation in Chad?

EGELAND: Chad is in many ways an early warning situation. It's a bad situation, which can get even much worse unless we really try to invest there. More than 200,000 refugees have flocked in to Chad for the relative safety there from the horrors of Darfur. They are now taking much of the attention and resources of the international community there.

The host populations in Chad are really not happy. There is tension. There are internal problems in Chad. The whole situation could collapse and we don't get nearly enough resources to have a good U.N. response in Chad, as we should.


MAKGABO: We'll continue our conversation with Jan Egeland after the break.

Also, is the alleged humanitarian bias one of the reasons behind the constant threat of starvation in Ethiopia?

And our Person of the Month, don't miss that next.


MAKGABO: Welcome back. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA.

More from the head of the U.N. Relief Agency, Jan Egeland in just a moment. But first, in the same week that U.N. accuses the world of neglecting crises in Africa, it sent out an urgent appeal for more aid in Ethiopia; a country which is globally stereotyped with images of severely malnourished children. And the U.N. says the global effort to change that is not enough.

More from Gladys Njoroge in Ethiopia. And we warn you that some of the images you are about to see may be disturbing.


GLADYS NJOROGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amarech is too weak to cry. Breathing is not any easier. At 9-months-old, her body has been emaciated by hunger and disease, and taking a turn for the worse until now.

"I don't have any food for my children unless government distributes food to us," she says."

But the government can't. It's report of a bumper harvest in January this year turned out to be exaggerated, risking the lives of an estimated 18 million Ethiopians who are now in need of food aid. The U.N. warns that 136,000 children are severely malnourished; a number that could double if food aid doesn't get here soon.

(on camera): Due to the increasing number of malnourished children being brought here by the day, aid agencies are treating this as a food emergency situation.

(voice over): Yet chronic famine is not the only problem here. Clean drinking water is scarce, fueling the ongoing food crisis. This mother lost her 10-month-old baby to dehydration, dysentery coupled with pneumonia. He died in the night. Doctors say he had little chance for survival. The U.N. programs that were providing clean water to the community have run out of funds.

BJORN LJUNGQVIST, DIRECTOR, ETHIOPIAN UNICEF: During the last two years, as you understand, we actually got good support to do this job. That's why we managed to 2.6 million out of the 4.2. Now this year, for reasons we can only think, no money has been given to us at all.

NJOROGE: It's against this backdrop that the Ethiopian government is now appealing for $320 million to feed the hungry and care for the most vulnerable of its citizens.

DR. HAILIS YESFAYE, SAVE THE CHILDREN PROGRAM: I think it's sometimes hard to decide on a severely malnourished child, to send him home and get money to home. If we had the possibility, the resources, the capacity, it would have been good to manage all of them in health institution.

NJOROGE: Until that's done, these children and their parents can only hope that aid come sooner rather than later.

Gladys Njoroge for CNN, Awasa, southern Ethiopia.


MAKGABO: Well, the U.N. says there's a critical gap in all sectors of assistance in Ethiopia. In our conversation early this week, the U.N. Relief Chief Jan Egeland discussed the latest appeal for the country, and how the world has responded to that.


EGELAND: When on the Horn of Africa: in Ethiopia, and in Eritrea, and in Somalia there is a very precarious food, security situation. There is also too much tension. Tension is rising again between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Many thousands of lives were lost in a totally futile conflict in the desert. And now all attention should rather go to help millions of people get food, aid, short term. And longer term get security. Ethiopia can feed itself if we help this society to get better agricultural policies.

MAKGABO (on camera): There are many who will say that is been a song that's been sung for a long, long time. And yet things don't seem to be changing. Because in as much as humanitarian groups, aid groups want to help on the ground, there has to be a willingness on the part of government to ease the situation as well. Is that happening?

EGELAND: Well, yes. But admittedly, of course, lots of the problems in Africa are not because the rich countries are not providing enough. As much is due to mal government and mismanagement, and for example, bad agricultural policies. And there's been a lot of that in the Horn of Africa, and in Ethiopia specifically.

I think now, the government has learned from past mistakes. And there are plans to make new regions and new people's food secure. But it takes time. And the climate is not good. And we have just to do -- we have to do two things. We have to feed, in a good manner, those who have the need of food aid. And we also have to push for real government and agricultural reform.

MAKGABO: In understanding that, Jan Egeland, what is it that you are going to say differently to change the situation and deal with what you have called this discrimination against Africa?

EGELAND: I think we have to be much better to advocate on behalf of those who are in need of our assistance in Africa. Niger is on the agenda now on the donor briefing I'm holding today, so is Togo. In Niger we are coming out with new appeals these days, because in Niger the locust ate everything last year. And since then there has been a drought. Hundreds of thousands of people need our assistance and we get no money. We tell the donors that $1 a day can save a life, so there's no better investment anywhere in the world.

And we're also there to help concision, same in Togo. Twenty-two thousands refugees have been produced by this new, totally unacceptable political crisis in Togo. We have to help the refugees. We have to make a stable situation again. And we have to help the people back. And we can if we get resources.

MAKGABO: All right. We are going to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

EGELAND: Thank you.


MAKGABO: And the threat of starvation is one of the issues in this weekend's elections in Ethiopia. The country goes to the polls to elect a new parliament. At a mass rally week, the opposition accused the Prime Minister Menes Zenawi of not doing enough to reform Ethiopia's land, which they says is one of the principle reasons for the recurring severe food shortages. Hundreds of thousands attended last week's rally and opposition leaders say that proves they have the numbers to defeat Prime Minister Zenawi. But observers say Mr. Zenawi is expected to win a third five-year term.

All right. Time for a quick break. Still ahead on the program, he's a voice for the voiceless. And now he's INSIDE AFRICA's Person of the Month.

And a safari of a lifetime on the back of an elephant. Don't miss that either, coming up.


MAKGABO: Hello again. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA.

Now our Person of the Month. He's a leading human rights activist with a voice determined to be heard. Whatever it takes, he's gone the extra mile for his people.

Susanna Gargeolo (ph) has the remarkable story of this young Liberian who's our first Person of the Month.


SUSANNA GARGEOLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Murder is something no young teenager should bear witness to.

ALOYSIUS TOE, RECIPIENT, REEBOK HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: I saw people executed right before my eyes.

GARGEOLO: But Aloysius Toe it first became his reality when soldiers lead away a 16-year-old fellow student and executed her. Her crime, being from the wrong ethnic group.

TOE: I saw that with my eyes. Imagine what it takes to see someone being shot in the head right before you. Then you watch the person, in grief, breathing his last.

GARGEOLO: Since then young Aloysius has led a nearly decade long battle against injustice in Liberia.


GARGEOLO: The 27-year-old activist's resume includes organizing marches against politically motivated murders, establishing civil and human rights groups, advocating against government abuse, and educating Liberians about their rights. His battles have put him through two prison terms and what he says was an assassination attempt by the government of Charles Taylor.

TOE: Eventually in the course of Liberian history, Liberians are going to take their destinies in their own hands and tell the powers that be, "No, you can't do this no more."

GARGEOLO: Since the fall of Taylor's government, Aloysius has expanded his mission from civil and political rights to also include social and economic. And his lifelong mission has now gained him the recognition of the outside world. Aloysius was honored this week as one of four recipients of the 2005 Reebok Human Rights Award for his significant contribution to that cause.

It would no doubt be tough for anyone to argue this young Liberian's qualifications. And for that reason, Aloysius Toe is INSIDE AFRICA's Person of the Month.


MAKGABO: That was Susanna Gargeolo reporting.

And finally this week, we take you to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. It's one of the world's largest inland river systems. And what better guide to travel through this open swampland than the Africa elephant, as Paul Tilsley did?


PAUL TILSLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Okavango Delta, here you cannot only witness but become part of a remarkable coming together of man and wild animal. For four days, a unique safari joining, as Aristotle wrote, "The beast that surpasses all others in wit and mind."

At the Abu Camp, you practically become a member of a herd of wild elephants, traveling with them through the open swampland of northern Botswana.

HERMIONE BURNETT HOFFMAN, BRITISH TOURIST: You just feel that for a very, very, very short time, space of time, you're part of an elephant. If that's possible to feel that way; but you're part of that elephant.

TILSLEY: The African elephant, for years it was thought impossible to train these animals at all, never mind get as we did to walk with these giants.

(on camera): These animals are trained, not tamed. To be astride one above, and yet part of wild nature, is an emotional somehow spiritual experience. One made more so by the fact that all of these great beasts have been rescued, some from circuses and zoos, others from owners who wanted to have them killed.

(voice over): One of these magnificent, proud creatures previously only knew Canadian snow, now returned home to Africa. Kathy, the matriarch of the herd, was used to walking only on artificial surfaces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overseas where they were standing on concrete and they were not quite sure with the wild out here. So we did introduce them to the wild. And then trained her to be able to walk into the woods, because they couldn't walk. The way is very soft and muddy.

TILSLEY: Perched on their backs, you stop when they want to munch at a tree or bush, which is frequently. And when this ultimate off road vehicle wants to take a watery shortcut, all you can do is lift your feet and hope.

(on camera): Do you find yourself kind of lost, immersed in this world of the pachyderm?

CARA GHARAGOZLOU, G.M, ABU CAMP: Not lost. Found, actually.

TILSLEY: Found throughout the camp and its deluxe guest tents, constant references to elephants. Abu Camp has a resident PhD researcher who shares with guests why she thinks the elephant is special.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think is its intelligence and its ability to communicate over vast distances, and the whole social interaction that they have, both the females and the males.

TILSLEY: And this social interaction between the elephants leads to such good feelings amongst guests that inevitably the social interaction between humans here too.

Paul Tilsley, INSIDE AFRICA, Abu Camp, Botswana.


MAKGABO: And of course, we always want to here from you, what you think of the reports you see of the stories. So send an email to

And that's our look inside the continent for this week. I'm Tumi Makgabo. Thanks for watching.



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