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.
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It’s logical to point fingers at the governments of rich nations such as Britain, France, the United States, and Germany for the slow donor response, because they are the nations who tend to give the most aid in times of emergency. As of 2002, the US donated 64 percent of the world's food aid, followed by Europe with 13.8 percent, Japan with 3.2 percent, and China with 1.7 percent. When these nations respond slowly, that hampers the ability of aid groups like Oxfam and Save the Children to send out extra personnel or emergency relief to a disaster zone.Skip to next paragraph
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But the truth is that 2011 is the year that the global economic crisis came to a head. The US Congress contemplated massive spending cuts to curb the US’s historic $14.7 trillion debt. The European Union appeared, at times, close to breaking up, as debt-strapped nations Greece, Italy, and Portugal veered toward insolvency.
Ordinary voters in the US told pollsters during this time period they thought that the US should scale back foreign aid spending. In a November 2010 poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org and Knowledge Networks, Americans were asked what percentage of the US federal budget was spent on foreign aid, and what amount was “appropriate.” The most common answers were 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively. The US actually spends only 1 percent of its federal budget on foreign aid.
Oxfam's director emphasized the dangers of delayed responses.
“We all bear responsibility for this dangerous delay that cost lives in East Africa and need to learn the lessons of the late response,” said Oxfam’s Chief Executive, Barbara Stocking in a joint statement. “It’s shocking that the poorest people are still bearing the brunt of a failure to respond swiftly and decisively. We know that acting early saves lives but collective risk aversion meant aid agencies were reluctant to spend money until they were certain there was a crisis.”