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Innovation is "vital" in tackling African drought

The Swiss foreign minister has called for Switzerland to show the way in finding long-term answers to the problems of drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

Addressing the opening of an annual conference on cooperation and development, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who also holds the rotating Swiss presidency, said emergency aid for the millions of people affected would not suffice.

Switzerland could set an example by coming up with sustainable development solutions in a disaster that would last “years”. Innovative ideas were “vital”, she said. Calmy-Rey recently visited a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya to which many Somalis are fleeing.

“Innovation is considered part of all Swiss development projects”, she noted. Bern University for example is attempting to create a variety of millet that is more resistant to drought.  

The minister also called for reform of United Nations structures for sustainable development. 

The conference was organised on the theme of innovation in the fields of climate, health, finance and politics, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The cabinet decided this week to increase its aid to the Horn of Africa by SFr20 million ($25.4 million), on top of the SFr19 million allocated at the start of the year.

About 12 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan and Uganda are suffering from famine. Somalia is suffering its worst drought for 60 years, and is also ravaged by armed conflict. and agencies

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