News in brief

Ethiopia risks mass starvation

In December 2002, the Ethiopian government requested 1.4 million tons of food aid to avoid the possibility of another mass starvation throughout the country.

In January, Jesuit Relief Services (JRS) reported that Ethiopia is still waiting for that food, and over 11 million people are at risk of starvation. “Supplies have to arrive and not just be pledged,” says Stephen Power, country director for JRS.

In some regions, people are already on waiting lists to receive food. Some have wandered miles from their homes in search of something to eat and many fear that displacement could prolong the shortage. “If we get mass population movements,” said Power, “This means people will be displaced for the next planting. Result: no crops, no harvest and a huge tragedy. We have to act now and act effectively.”

AIDS in Africa

According to a 2002 United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report, “By far the worst-affected region, sub-Saharan Africa is now home to 29.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 3.5 million new infections occurred there in 2002, while the epidemic claimed the lives of an estimated 2.4 million Africans in the past year. Ten million young people (aged 15-24) and almost 3 million children under 15 are living with HIV”.

Protest against FGM

While the world noted the international day against female genital mutilation (FGM) on 6 February, African women are making their own stand against the practice.

In Kenya, hundreds of girls ran away from home to escape FGM and are now in hiding. In Ethiopia, the wives of four African presidents led hundreds of women in Addis Ababa in a protest against FGM.

FGM is banned in many parts of Africa, but many families practise it in secret. The United Nations estimates that two million girls are subjected to FGM every year