Premier Wen Jiabao shakes hands with his Ethiopian counterpart Meles Zenawi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, August 15, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]
$55.28 million aimed at providing food to drought-striken areas
BEIJING – China on Monday announced food aid worth 353.2 million yuan ($55.28 million), one of its largest single gifts to a foreign country, to help Ethiopia and other African drought-stricken regions solve the current famine crisis.
Premier Wen Jiabao made the promise while meeting visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“China will stay with Ethiopia to cope with the current crisis, beef up cooperation and strive for common development,” Wen said.
China had already announced plans to provide 90 million yuan ($14 million) worth of emergency food assistance to countries in the Horn of Africa in late July.
Starting from last year, the Horn of Africa region, which includes Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia, has been devastated by severe drought. More than 12 million people there desperately need food and humanitarian assistance.
According to the African Union, the emergency funding need is estimated at about $2 billion.
The United Nations has officially declared a state of famine in five regions in southern and central Somalia, while the international community has organized a wide range of aid relief and fundraising to help.
On Monday, Wen also said China is willing to expand cooperation with Ethiopia in areas including industrial investment, technology transfer and efficient agriculture to help realize sustainable development in the African nation.
Besides, China will push for the G20 group to forge a good environment for stability and development of Africa, the premier said.
Meles said China’s timely aid fully reflects the solid partnership and sincere friendship between China and Africa, and Ethiopia deeply appreciates it.
The long-term economic aid and support from China has substantially enhanced Ethiopia’s capability of self-development, he said.
President Hu Jintao also expressed concern over the famine when meeting Meles on Friday in the southern city of Shenzhen, when the leaders were there to attend the opening ceremony of the 26th Summer Universiade.
Hu said China would deliver its direct humanitarian aid to the area and Ethiopia as soon as possible.
Valerie Amos, UN under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Relief, on Saturday stressed that aid workers must have a safe passage to those in need.
Dai Yan, former Chinese ambassador to Ghana, said that as “brothers” it is natural and necessary for China to try its best to help Africa when it needs assistance.
He also said this unusually large contribution to Africa reflects China’s consistency in its help to the continent and its dedication to common development.
China has a long history in aiding Africa since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
Aid to Africa in total climbed to 76 billion yuan as of September 2009.
Aid forms also varied, ranging from common commodities and technology to medical care and debt relief.
Still, Deng Yanting, a researcher on African studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that China’s aid to some African countries should be optimized.
He said China’s aid should be more focused on capability-building of African people, instead of pure “project delivery”.
“Because of the extreme imbalance of knowledge and understanding on the continent, China still has a lot to learn from some mature aid systems while staying cautious of their drawbacks,” he added.
The African Union declared Aug 15 to be “One African Voice Day” and organized an event in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Monday under the theme “One Africa One Voice Against Hunger”.
The goal was to emphasize the common identity of the various African peoples and to reiterate the appeal to various sources for more financial aid and humanitarian assistance.