News / Africa

Charities Say Africa Drought Aid Delay Cost Tens of Thousands of Lives

Henry Ridgwell

Two international aid agencies say tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if the international community had responded earlier to the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa.
A report on the investigation by charities Oxfam and Save the Children says there were clear warning signs of an impending crisis, but claims 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 aid agencies Oxfam and Save the Children 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.  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," said Rocco Blume.

Rocco Blume says the international community gave very generously once the scale of the catastrophe was clear.  But sophisticated early warning systems forecast a likely emergency as early as August 2010 - 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," said Blume. "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."

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," he said. "There is a difficult balance we have to strike in giving the early warnings but also making very clear what the impact will be."

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," said Blume. "Across the countries of Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, there are very low food stocks, high food prices. 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 turning into a catastrophe.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More