China paying 'close attention' to Africa famine

China said on Friday it was paying “close attention” to a disastrous famine in the Horn of Africa after top US House Democrat Nancy Pelosi urged it to do more.

The Chinese foreign ministry said it had supplied 90-million yuan ($14-million) worth of food aid in response to the crisis, described by the United Nations as the worst to hit Africa since a 1991/92 famine in Somalia.

“The central government pays close attention to the large-scale famine caused by a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa and expresses sympathy to people in stricken areas,” a ministry statement said.

Pelosi on Thursday urged China and Saudi Arabia to “step up their efforts” to relieve the famine in the Horn of Africa, where the United Nations says 12-million people are in danger of starvation.

The United Nations estimates that $2.4-billion is required to address the crisis, which has hit Somalia worst due to a relentless conflict and aid restrictions by al-Shebab rebels in areas under their control.

The prolonged drought has also affected parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Aggravating the drought
China has continued to pour money into Africa despite criticism from Western states of Beijing’s support for the hardline regimes of leaders such as Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

China-Africa trade soared more than 40% last year to $126.9-billion and Chinese companies invested heavily in mining, agriculture, forestry and construction industries throughout the continent.

Germany’s Africa policy coordinator in July accused China of “large-scale land purchases” in the Horn of Africa which had exacerbated the drought—charges Beijing strongly denied.

Guenter Nooke told the daily Frankfurter Rundschau that Chinese investments were focused on farming for export which he said can lead to “major social conflicts in Africa when small farmers have their land and thus their livelihoods taken away”.

But China said the claim was “completely unfounded” and that its efforts to set up 10 agricultural demonstration centres in Africa and dispatch nearly 1 000 experts and technical staff had been “warmly welcomed”.—AFP

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