Grant approved for drought victims in Ethiopia

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has accepted the advice of the Disaster Relief Fund Advisory Committee and approved from the Disaster Relief Fund a grant of $7.488 million to Oxfam Hong Kong for providing relief to drought victims in Ethiopia.

Announcing the grant today (May 25), a spokesman for the Government said that the grant will be used to provide water to victims, health centres, health posts and schools in the affected communities. The Committee hopes the grant will facilitate the provision of timely relief to the victims and help them restore their normal living.

“To ensure that the money is used for the designated purposes, Oxfam Hong Kong will be asked to submit an evaluation report and an audited account on the use of the grant after the relief project has been completed,” the spokesman said.

Distributed by APO on behalf of The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

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Grant approved for drought victims in Ethiopia

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has accepted the advice of the Disaster Relief Fund Advisory Committee and approved from the Disaster Relief Fund a grant of $7.488 million to Oxfam Hong Kong for providing relief to drought victims in Ethiopia.

Announcing the grant today (May 25), a spokesman for the Government said that the grant will be used to provide water to victims, health centres, health posts and schools in the affected communities. The Committee hopes the grant will facilitate the provision of timely relief to the victims and help them restore their normal living.

“To ensure that the money is used for the designated purposes, Oxfam Hong Kong will be asked to submit an evaluation report and an audited account on the use of the grant after the relief project has been completed,” the spokesman said.

Distributed by APO on behalf of The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

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South Sudan: ‘Fighting must stop now’ so millions can be spared from famine, say UN agency chiefs

Despite “appalling conditions” in South Sudan, it is not too late to save more people from dying, the head of the United Nations agriculture agency said today, joining the World Food Programme (WFP) chief in a call to all parties enmeshed in the country’s conflict to end the violence and work together to ensure access to food and other life-saving support.

José Graziano da Silva, head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WFP’s David Beasley made the call during a visit to the former Unity state, one of the areas in South Sudan worst hit by the current hunger crisis.

“We can still avoid a worsening of the disaster, but the fighting has to stop now,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said. “There can be no progress without peace. People must be given immediate access to food, and farmers need to be allowed to work on their fields and tend to their livestock,” he added.

Around 5.5 million people in South Sudan, or almost half the population, face severe hunger ahead of the lean season, which peaks in July. Of these, more than 90,000 face starvation with famine declared in parts of former Unity state while another one million teeter on the brink. The UN stresses that this unprecedented situation reflects the impact of ongoing strife, obstacles to delivering humanitarian assistance and declining agricultural production.

Both UN officials stressed that an immediate, massive response is critical, combining emergency food assistance and support for agriculture, livestock and fisheries.

‘The fighting must end’ so investment in children can begin, WFP’s Beasley

In the former Unity state, they visited people coping with the hunger crisis with the support of both agencies and met with people facing famine on Kok Island, a refuge in the Nile River where many people have sought shelter from fighting.

The two agency heads saw aid workers from international and local partner organizations distributing WFP food and nutrition treatments, as well as seeds and FAO fishing kits.

“Food, treatment for malnourished kids, kits that help people fish and grow vegetables – these are the difference between life and death for people we met in Unity state,” Mr. Beasley said. “But we can’t keep scaling up forever. The fighting has to end to make the kind of investments that give the children of South Sudan any hope for the future they deserve.”

‘Saving livelihoods saves lives,’ says FAO’s Graziano da Silva

The two UN agency heads visited an FAO project aiming to provide women farmers and pastoralists with a place to process milk. With rising malnutrition levels across the country, the project is an innovative way to increase the availability of safe, quality milk and milk products – a major dietary staple and a source of protein vitamins and minerals, essential components for a healthy diet.

Mr. Graziano da Silva highlighted that saving livelihoods also saves lives, saying “South Sudan has great potential – it has land, water and courageous people. If it also has peace, then together we can work to end hunger.”

Both agency heads underscored the need for further international support to confront a $182 million funding gap over the next six months.

Mr. Beasley assured that while WFP would continue to stand by the South Sudanese, its leaders “must show good faith by facilitating humanitarian efforts, including getting rid of unnecessary fees and procedures that delay and hinder aid.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations (UN).

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Harnessing rather than suppressing informal trade can give Africa a boost

Africa’s vast but informal cross-border trade can contribute to improving livelihoods and increasing regional integration across the continent, according to a new report presented at a conference here.

Informal cross-border trading, in which transactions are not compliant with local tax and other rules, accounts for a large share – between 20 and a hefty 70 percent – of employment in sub-Saharan Africa, and putting it on a regular footing can lift sustainable prosperity and markedly improve prospects for women, says FAO’s new publication, Formalization of informal trade in Africa.

Around half of all intra-African cross-border trade is classified as informal, indicating its large if officially invisible role. Proactive policies that recognize such activity, tapping its potential with the aim of steering it towards proper regulatory status, are to be preferred over heavy-handed approaches to eradicate or seek rents from entrepreneurs, according to FAO.

“Facilitating formalization is the only viable policy option for Africa’s transformation agenda to realize its objectives,” says Suffyan Koroma, FAO senior economist and lead author of the report.

“Despite the significant contribution of the informal sector to African economies, the policy makers quite often have no information on ICBT due to lack of quality data, this has hampered the development of supporting policies to the sector,” said Clement Onyango from the Nairobi chapter of Consumer Unity and Trust Society, a non-governmental organization that is co-hosting the conference with FAO.

A huge role for women

Informal cross-border trade activity is largely a second-choice option taken by people in the absence of clearly defined formal alternatives. It consists of trade in goods and services, often agricultural in nature, and in times of food crises and other shocks has proven to be more responsible than legal channels.

Off-the-radar economic activity, not all of it involving international trade, accounts for around 40 percent of GDP in Africa, higher than in Latin America or Asia.

The trade is rarely illegal. In most cases it is informal because practitioners have poor access to all the appropriate business licenses, administrative skills and knowledge of import and custom-tax laws to act otherwise. While such activity is an important source of household income, practitioners are often prey to corruption and their weak access to credit means their activities are rarely stable or sustainable.

Women constitute the largest share of such informal traders, comprising more than half in Western and Central Africa and about 70 percent in Southern Africa, the FAO report found.

Patterns differ by region: In Tanzania, women dominate trade in manufactured products while men handle mostly raw or semi-processed agricultural products, whereas the opposite is the case in Cameroon. Women and men tend to differ in which foodstuffs – fresh produce or commodity staples – they trade as well. Appropriate policies must take such facts into account.

The Kigali conference is part of ongoing FAO-supported work in the country, along with UN Women and other development partners, aimed at enabling women to benefit more from agri-food chains, a project geared to allowing women small traders access useful information as well as start-up capital.

Local agricultural produce and livestock account for two-thirds of Rwanda’s exports, most of which are informally traded, with the bulk going to neighboring countries, notably the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda encourages informal small traders to form cooperatives as a step towards regularization.

Women trading between the border posts of Kenya and Uganda and between Rwanda and Burundi prefer to use brokers who appear to shield them from what they perceive as unprofessional behavior of customs officials, the report notes.

FAO, working with Catholic Relief Service, has also organized open-door events on the Rwanda-Congo border where women cooperatives were invited to learn more about the cross-border tax regime directly from custom officials and government representatives.

“Rwanda has emerged as a model of best practice for cross border trade through its efforts to integrate the informal economy by easing trade channels for small-scale agricultural traders,”said Attaher Maiga, FAO’s Representative in Rwanda.

Policy recommendations

Aware that “ICBT-blindness” in national and regional trade policies and poverty reduction strategies may be hampering progress, African governments are increasingly making efforts to identify dynamics in the sector. In Uganda, both the Bureau of Statistics and the central bank monitor such flows and the government is discussing whether an approach focusing on quality control and value-added potential so that traders can earn more should take priority over a laisser-faire approach or actions aimed at suppression.

Key priorities to facilitate the formalization of informal cross-border trading according to FAO, include the simplification of licensing requirements, tax incentives, fostering partnerships, radio, television and town-hall outreach to participants in the informal economy, and intensifying efforts to tackle official corruption.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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