Date: May 16 2012
United Nations World Food Programme bosses from Africa are today in discussions with the Australian government over the need for continued aid to Somalia and South Sudan.
The delegation will meet with senior AusAID officials to plead a case that the troubled Horn of Africa region should not be overlooked as Australia decides where to direct its foreign aid spend.
The timing of the meetings has become urgent following the decision in last week's federal budget to strip almost $3 billion from foreign aid donations.
With the budget, the Australian government broke its promise to spend more on overseas development and has delayed by another year its pledge to increase total spending to as much as $8 billion - or 0.5 per cent of gross national income - by 2015.
Aid groups immediately criticised the move, with some non-government organisations saying Labor would get the budget back into surplus at the expense of the world's most needy.
World Food Programme's director for East and Central Africa Stanlake Samkange said he had come to Canberra to thank Australia for its support to date, but to also urge the government not cut back.
''We [WFP] received over $60 million for the region from Australia last year,'' he said.
''The Australian contribution was timely and it was very flexible and it allowed us to make the kind of decisions on the spot that we needed to.''
Mr Samkange said while it was disappointing that Australia was not moving as fast with its aid targets as the government itself said it would, some other countries were imposing absolute cuts to their foreign aid.
''Australia wants to see effectiveness, good value for money and that we are making a difference, and we can show them all of that,'' he said.
''Australia wants to do the right thing for the right reasons. We want to make sure Australia stays engaged in the region.''
Mr Samkange said Australia's push for a seat on the UN Security Council was good for the region because it meant Australia was keeping more up to date of the issues affecting the region. Hunger levels range from serious to extremely alarming across many Horn of Africa nations, exacerbated by civil conflicts, poor rainfall and weak food markets.
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