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Drought in Africa
Photo: IFRC on Flickr

How to Help African Drought Victims.


As drought and famine continue to persist in the Horn of Africa many are questioning the failure of relief agencies and governments to implent immediate relief efforts. Currently, malnutrition rates in Somalia are at a shocking 50 percent and the UN estimates that $2.4 billion is still needed in aid. Rising food prices, food aid theft, and a cholera epidemic add to the crisis in the devastated region, and parallels are being drawn between timid government responses to this famine compared to the tremendous relief initatives executed during the famine of the 1990s.

Below, three experts weigh in on the lack of aid and its implications for the future.

Margareta Wahlström, the head of the UN’s disaster risk reduction office, tells the UN News Centre that the Horn of Africa crisis is a “wake-up call for aid agencies.”

“‘As Oxfam, Save the Children, ONE and others rightly point out in this charter, all the warning signs were there in the Horn of Africa two years ago but the warnings were not acted on. The result is that more lives will be lost and more money will be spent because there was little or no support to timely and low-cost measures that would have reduced the risk of drought turning into a famine,’ said Wahlström.”

East Africa Bureau Chief for The New York Times Jeffrey Gettleman spoke to NPR about the lack of global assistance for the current African famine compared to the support given during the African famine in the ’90s.

“‘Well, we’ve seen a real reluctance to intervene in the way the world did in 1992, 1993, and that’s what’s interesting about this famine, is that it’s very similar to what happened in the early ’90s, which provoked this massive response.

“So the question is what’s the world going to do about that? But it seems like there’s a lot of reluctance to go back in a big way. And therefore, you know, are these aid groups going to be able to get into these areas and deliver food? It’s an open question.”

International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Nicole Engelbrecht tells Voice of Africa that the situation in Somalia will not improve until the harvest in December, assuming there is a strong rainy season.

“‘Even then, it is not going to make such a big difference, because the next rainy season that is set to begin in October only accounts for 30 percent of the yearly food production, if it goes well. So, that is definitely not enough to meet the immense needs that still persist in Somalia,’ said Englebrecht.”