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United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa

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"Maurice F. Strong was Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa from late 1984 to mid-1986 and in that capacity was directly responsible for coordination of UN relief operations in Ethiopia and other African countries affected by the drought and famine of 1984/85...

"Having visited Ethiopia a number of time over the years, I was appalled at the scale-of the death. dislocation and suffering that had been afflicted all the Ethiopian people by a combination of internal conflict. compounded by recurrent drought and devastating famine. The international community had been slow to respond until the television cameras revealed the shocking dimensions of the unfolding tragedy.

"This led to an unprecedented manifestation of compassion and concern, accompanied by provision of food and relief supplies on a scale that threatened to overwhelm the local capacities to receive and distribute them. Fortunately, Ethiopia possessed in its Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, one of the most effective national organizations of its kind in Africa. With the support of the United Nations and other international agencies, the Commission had been struggling valiantly to stem a mounting tide of human suffering and need with resources and capacities not sufficient to cope with a tragedy on this immense scale. The work of the RRC was also severely handicapped by a military government, more preoccupied with pursuing internal wars and maintaining its own authority than with the plight of its people.

"United Nations Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar appointed one of his most able and experienced people, Kurt Jansson of Finland, as his Special Representative to reinforce the efforts of the RRC to mobilize international support and ensure the shortly followed by the establishment of a special UN Office for Emergency Operations in Africa as the principal focal point for a large scale mobilization of international resources required to meet the needs. of Ethiopia and the some other 20 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa in which some 200 million people were affected by the famine and some 30 million subject to acute suffering and risk to their survival. It was headed by one of the finest and ablest UN leaders, UN Administrator Bradford Morse. He brought to it a passionate devotion to Africa and a rare capacity to inspire confidence and enlist the cooperation of the many other actors whose efforts and contributions needed to be integrated into an international response mechanism that enabled the contributions of each of the actors to be targeted and deployed effectively." [1]

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References

  1. Relief and Rehabilitation in Ethiopia, Maurice F. Strong, accessed July 19, 2010.