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Rock Celebrity Draws Attention to Ethiopia's Millions Facing Starvation - 2003-05-27

Rock celebrity Bob Geldof is visiting Ethiopia, to highlight the plight of millions of people facing starvation. His five-day mission is timed to raise awareness of Ethiopia's plight before next week's G-8 summit of industrialized nations in France.

Bob Geldof is touring Ethiopia with officials from the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF. The agency says Geldof will visit various U.N. projects in the country, including food and water distribution centers.

The Irish musician has severely criticized rich nations for not doing enough to help Ethiopia. He urged the leaders meeting in France next week not to ignore Ethiopia as they work on other issues, such as Iraq. He said Ethiopia has not received two-thirds of the desperately-needed aid it has been promised.

The United Nations estimates that as many as 12 million people are immediately at risk for starvation in the east-African country. Three years of drought have turned fertile farmlands into dust bowls, leaving 40 million people dependent on food aid.

The UNICEF representative in Ethiopia, Bjorn Ljungvist, praised Geldof for his efforts to raise global awareness of the problem. "Judging from this first day, he is doing a wonderful job. He had a very wonderful discussion with the prime minister. He has had very good discussions with embassies of donor groups as well as with this community. So, we hope, we trust that this is going to be a very constructive week," he said.

Bob Geldof first visited famine-striken Ethiopia 20 years ago. That trip inspired him to bring together some of the world's best known pop and rock stars to perform a charity concert, dubbed Live Aid, in 1985. The concert raised $60 million for Ethiopian famine victims and famine relief organizations.

On Sunday, organizers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa put on a homegrown version of the Live Aid concert, raising one million dollars for food aid. But they acknowledge it is far short of what is needed to help all those in need.