Oxfam, an international humanitarian agency, says the drought in East Africa has pushed both the international community and governments in the region to brink. Oxfam says there is food in some communities, but the means to acquire and distribute the food to needy communities are limited.
Nathaniel Raymond, Oxfam America’s communications adviser for humanitarian response, has been working on projects in East Africa. English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked him about future plans to make the effects of the drought less devastating: “…There’s been an effort to create a famine early warning system, which is a way of sharing information…to be able to make sure that we have the proper amount of resources in reserve.”
Raymond says not all communities are hurt in a drought, and food shortages can sometimes be alleviated with improved distribution. “The main thing that agencies need is money to buy as much of the food as we can locally. During a drought, many people think there is no food available…. Certain communities still have food. The main problem is distribution… The key thing is to provide cash grants for people to improve their resources. Food aid can’t do that.”
Raymond says drought is virtually a permanent feature in the eastern part of Africa, and new coping mechanisms must be developed. “On the Horn, you have to consider yourself always in some stage of the drought…a fire department where the alarm is always going off. The key is to be able to get as much information as possible of each stage of this constant emergency, to know what’s changing. The international community needs to figure out how to get out of this cycle of crisis, food aid delivery and then crisis again. Food aid is simply a band-aid. What’s needed for these communities is surgery. They need resources to develop alternative livelihoods.”