Aid groups: With new Africa drought looming, donors must speed response
Aid groups warned that a drought was coming to the Horn of Africa in 2011, and say now that a late response by donor nations unnecessarily cost thousands of lives.
Scientists and aid organizations gave the world plenty of time to prepare, but a late response by the world’s donor nations cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives during last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa region.Skip to next paragraph
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That is the message of a joint report by Oxfam International, Save the Children and other charities, released today, during the global meetings at Davos, Switzerland, and at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Now, with a new drought looming in the West African nations of Mauritania, Niger, Mali, and Chad, the joint report, “The Dangerous Delay,” is calling for an overhaul of the world’s aid delivery system to avoid more preventable deaths from starvation.
“The humanitarian community needs to come together and raise its voice louder so governments and donors know the gravity of crises such as the one in the Horn of Africa,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children in a statement. “By the time the world sees starving children on TV, it’s too late. Tens of thousands of deaths could have been prevented had aid groups and governments received funding earlier to scale up programs.”
Aid groups estimate that 50,000 to 100,000 people died of hunger between April and August 2011, more than half of them children. Even today, the UN warns that as many as 750,000 Somalis could die in the ongoing food crisis in Somalia.
What makes the deaths in the Horn of Africa so galling for many activists is the fact that the world had advance warning. Unlike the famine in the Horn of Africa in 1984, which caused an estimated 1 million deaths in Ethiopia alone, aid organizations had received alerts from a massive computerized system called the Famine Early Warning System, which is comprised of ground sensors, satellite imagery, and field observations. FEWS-Net and other systems alerted aid groups as early as August 2010 that drought conditions were worsening, but slow funding from international donors meant that aid groups could not mount a full-scale response until July 2011, when the drought was in full force.