News / Africa

    Charities Say Africa Drought Aid Delay Cost Lives

    Internally displaced Somali families settle inside a war-devastated cathedral building in the old center of Mogadishu, Somalia, August 2011. (file photo)
    Internally displaced Somali families settle inside a war-devastated cathedral building in the old center of Mogadishu, Somalia, August 2011. (file photo)
    Henry Ridgwell

    A new report says tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if the international community and aid agencies had responded earlier to the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa. The report, based on an investigation by charities Oxfam and Save the Children, asserts there were clear warning signs of an impending crisis - but says many donors wanted proof of a humanitarian catastrophe before acting to prevent one. And the charities are now issuing early warnings of a food crisis in parts of West Africa.

    It's estimated that between 50,000 and 100,000 people died in the drought and food crisis that hit the Horn of Africa last year - more than half of them children under five.

    The U.S. government says 29,000 young children died in the space of just 90 days when the famine was at its peak.

    An investigation by British aid agencies Oxfam and Save the Children, titled "A Dangerous Delay," says many of the victims could have been saved if the world had acted earlier.

    "There were warnings of a food crisis issued in early 2011 and those warnings stated that the crisis would probably hit in the summer of 2011," said Rocco Blume, policy advisor for Oxfam. "But those warnings weren't heeded and there are a number of reasons why.  Essentially at the beginning of the year there were many competing priorities, such as the Arab Spring, the crisis in Ivory Coast and the Japanese tsunami that had just occurred. So the attention of the international community was elsewhere."

    Blume said the international community gave very generously once the scale of the catastrophe was clear. But he said sophisticated early warning systems forecast a likely emergency as early as August 201, well before the first signs of famine surfaced.

    "Currently, the international aid system and the international community tend to respond to figures of malnutrition or statistics of malnutrition.  The world gets into gear when television pictures start showing starving children. It's possible to respond far earlier and to prevent that situation from occurring," said Blume.

    The report concludes that a culture of risk aversion caused a six-month delay in the aid effort - costing lives and money.

    "Aid agencies have in the past been accused of 'crying wolf' when they issue warnings before a crisis has actually hit. There is a difficult balance we have to strike in giving the early warnings, but also making very clear what the impact will be," said Blume.

    The timing of the report is no accident. Aid agencies warn another crisis is looming, this time in West Africa - and the international community needs to act fast.

    "Right now in West Africa there are warnings that this year there will be a food crisis. Across the countries of Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, there are very low food stocks, high food prices," said Blume. "And the implication of this is that right now the international community needs to be providing funding and support to prevent this from becoming a dire food emergency."

    Poor harvests, drought and pest infestations have been blamed for the shortages. Aid agencies warn the last food crisis in West Africa in 2010 hit 10 million people - and action is needed to stop a crisis from turning into a catastrophe.


    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora