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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid