Thursday, January 15, 2004

BUMPER CROP IN ETHIOPIA WON'T ELIMINATE NEED FOR AID -- $4 BILLION MISSING IN ANGOLAN OIL REVENUE
IRIN notes that a bumper harvest in Ethiopia will not eliminated the need for food aid. Perversely enough, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) also noted that the 13 million tonne bumper harvest of cereals and pulses raised fears that crop prices could collapse, thereby adversely affecting rural farmers. It added that providing farmers with seeds and fertiliser had helped boost the harvest, but that action to stabilise prices being affected by oversupply was now vital.

The Angolan government is unable to for more than $4 billion in oil revenues, charged the NGO Human Rights Watch. "More than $4-billion in state oil revenue disappeared from Angolan government coffers from 1997 to 2002, roughly equal to the entire sum the government spent on all social programmes in the same period," HRW said on Tuesday. "While ordinary Angolans suffered through a profound humanitarian crisis, their government oversaw the suspicious disappearance of a truly colossal sum of money. This seriously undermined Angolans' rights," said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights programme at HRW.

Good news for sick people in South Africa. The country's government will slash medicine prices by up to 70% tomorrow, according to the health minister. The Daily Mail and Guardian observed, [R]egulations on transparent pricing had been delayed by four years due to legal action by pharmaceutical companies. The draft regulations will give the pharmaceutical industry three months to comment before the government enforces them through legislation in May, [the health minister] said. "When these regulations are fully implemented, the price of medicines to consumers would be between 40% and 70% lower than the current levels."

There is also a campaign to curb child exploitation in Angola, according to IRIN. "Children are hungry and are unable to feed themselves. This leads them to the streets to seek employment - there really is no other option, given the weak system of social welfare in Angola. Most often the meagre earnings of these children help to support unemployed parents and the elderly," Sam Kambarami, the acting director of Save the Children Fund-US, told to the UN information service. "There is wide recognition that, in some cases, some families do not have any choice but to send their children to work. The solution therefore is to consider how to combine schooling with work that is not exploitative," explained UN Children's Fund's child protection officer, Abubacar Sultan.

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