A group of global artists, activists and business leaders have signed a joint letter urging world leaders to step up their response to the famine in the Horn of Africa. They call on them to act “without reservation, prevarication or equivocation” when they meet at an emergency summit in Rome.

Among the signatories are Annie Lennox, Bob Geldof, Simon Cowell, Richard Curtis, Stephen Fry, Eddie Izzard, Kristin Scott Thomas, and representatives from charities such as Oxfam, the ONE Campaign, Comic Relief, CAFOD, ActionAid, Save the Children and many others.

“As we write, more than 11 million people are suffering the great agony of the worst famine in Africa for many years. It is incomprehensible that in 2011 anyone should die of starvation. $600 million* is needed now for our fellow humans. Not a great sum for the world, even in a time of great economic difficulty for some. Last week European leaders found over hundred times this amount to shore up the euro and bail out banks, yet countries like France, Italy, the Arab States and Germany have so far given miniscule amounts of money to prevent people dying from hunger. Surely this must be unacceptable? A true measure of strength is how one cares for the weak. A true test of power is how one protects the frail.

“Leaders meet today to discuss the food crisis at an emergency meeting in Rome. They all can and should use this meeting to make their pledges and find this money without reservation, prevarication or equivocation. Aid agencies from all over the world are on the ground working with local leaders and helping as many people as possible. Far more can and will be done if the money is found and found fast.

“Beyond the immediate need, action must also be taken to fix the food system. We must see the long-term investment in agriculture to ensure the poorest can feed themselves. Rich countries said they would do this two years ago and shamefully have failed to do so. Too many African leaders have also failed to prioritise agriculture. We all feel the inexorable price rises in our supermarkets. Action on food prices globally can be taken. We know what must be done. We know it is affordable and essential. We have lacked the political will. And that is a failure of leadership.”

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