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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs