- European Union has today proposed a US$ 1.6 billion two-year emergency fund to help poor African countries that were worst hit by global food crisis.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the fund will aim to help mostly African nations and stabilise supply markets. The fund has been put together from cash that has gone unspent in this year\'s EU farm budget.
"The impact of high food prices is particularly severe for the world's poorest populations," Mr Barroso said in a statement. He said that if European nations did not step in and help, United Nations goals to halve world poverty by 2015 would be put at risk, saying it would further exacerbate tensions between countries in Africa over resources.
The highly questionable funding by EU member states was the result of under-spending and leeway in the bloc's massive agriculture budget comprising in European Union of Euro 750 million earmarked for 2008 and the remainder for 2009.
EU spokesman Mr Johannes Laitenberger said the fund, if approved by EU governments and European Parliament, would provide urgent funding to UN aid agencies like the World Food Program and to the international Red Cross to boost supply of fertilizer and seeds to increase planting of crops over the next two years.
Mr Laitenberger appealed to EU governments and lawmakers to ensure approval by November, so the aid can get to the poorest countries as soon as possible.
The EU Commission will only give out cash to countries that are found to be the most reliant on food imports and have been hardest hit by food price inflation.
Commission Spokesman for Humanitarian and Development Aid Mr John Clancy said the initiative was a response to proposals put forth at a UN food summit held in Rome last June.
"The idea is to respond to the mid and long-term structural issues at stake here, in terms of getting stability back of food prices, whether in Africa or globally," Mr Clancy said.
Most African countries have seen food protests riots in recent past due to severe drought and insecurity.
Meanwhile, Group of Eight leaders from rich nations have committed to achieve their aid target for Africa, and pledged to raise annual aid levels by $50 billion by 2010, as per their commitment in their 2005 Summit.
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