- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Horn of famine

The United States may have been slow to respond to the flooding in Mozambique, but Washington is working hard to prevent a worse disaster in the Horn of Africa.

"Today in the six countries in and around the Horn, about 15 million people are at risk of famine," Brady Anderson, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said yesterday.

"Over 8 million people in Ethiopia alone, nearly 3 million people in Kenya, plus hundreds of thousands of others in Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. The main reason for this massive food shortage is drought."

Scarce rain led to crop failure and the death of livestock, he said.

"You may still remember the Ethiopia famine of 1984 in which 800,000 people died of starvation," he told reporters.

Mr. Anderson said USAID is reacting to the threat of famine in the Horn before it reaches catastrophic levels.

He described the agency's Famine Early Warning System that monitors rainfall, climate and soil conditions in Africa and alerts international relief agencies.

"We can act early and keep people from going hungry," Mr. Anderson said. "As a result, we at USAID knew that the Horn of Africa was facing dangerous conditions even before the United Nations and other international relief agencies began calling for food aid."

The United States has provided about 650,000 metric tons of food of a total of about 1.3 million metric tons requested by relief agencies, he said.

Mr. Anderson said he is sending Hugh Parmer, director of USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Response, to travel to the Horn of Africa "to make sure that the United States is doing everything that we can to help the people who face this potential famine."

Mr. Anderson defended the U.S. response to Mozambique, explaining that initially USAID believed "local teams" in the southern African nation could handle the damage caused by a cyclone on Feb. 7.

"It was not until Feb. 25 when a second surge of water caused the rivers and the dams to overflow that the disaster became worse than anyone had anticipated," he said.

USAID has allocated $12.7 million for search-and-rescue efforts in Mozambique. It sent a 34-member disaster-response team.

A U.S. military plane landed yesterday in Mozambique with the first military troops to help in the relief operation.

"At USAID, we have been working with the people of Mozambique for 15 years," Mr. Anderson said.

"Last year Mozambique had one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. And while this tragedy is surely a huge setback for the people of Mozambique and their government, the United States is committed to doing everything we can to help them regain their footing."

Time for Cyprus

U.S. envoy Alfred Moses arrived in Cyprus yesterday, declaring now is the "best time" to reunify the island.
"This is the best time for the parties to reach a settlement. All the factors are there to make progress," Mr. Moses told reporters after arriving in the capital Nicosia.
Mr. Moses, a former ambassador to Romania, declared himself an optimist last year when he accepted the position as President Clinton's special envoy for Cyprus.
"I always have new ideas, and both sides encouraged us to come with fresh ideas. I have some thoughts we will be sharing," he said, without giving further details.
"I come with the encouragement of the president to talk to the parties on the island to see if we can make further progress moving towards a comprehensive settlement," he said.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, leader of the Greek-Cypriot community, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are planning a third round of indirect talks in New York on May 23. The so-called proximity talks are carried out by intermediaries.
Mr. Denktash, whose Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey, demands equal diplomatic status with Mr. Clerides, whose administration is the internationally recognized government of the island.
"We hope to have more intensive talks in the third round," he added.

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