Slow response to Africa famine 'cost lives'

2012-01-18 11:24

London - Thousands of people in East Africa died needlessly because the international community failed to respond to early warnings of famine, Oxfam and Save the Children warned on Wednesday.

The British organisations said in a report, titled "A Dangerous Delay", that a "culture of risk aversion" among aid agencies and national governments caused a six-month delay in taking action.

Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking said poor families in East Africa, mainly in Somalia, were still "bearing the brunt" of the failure to mount an effective response to the food crisis.

"We all bear responsibility for this dangerous delay that cost lives in East Africa and need to learn the lessons of the late response," Stocking said.

"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."

The report quoted British government figures as saying that between 50 000 and 100 000 people died in the East Africa food crisis, more than half of them children under five.

A US government estimate said more than 29 000 children under the age of five died from May to July 2011.

The report by the two aid organisations said early warning systems forecast a crisis in the region as early as August 2010 but a full-scale response was not launched until nearly a year later in July 2011.

But many donors "wanted proof of a humanitarian catastrophe" before acting, it said.

Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said the suffering of thousands of youngsters could have been avoided with "more money when it really mattered".

"We can no longer allow this grotesque situation to continue, where the world knows an emergency is coming but ignores it until confronted with TV pictures of desperately malnourished children," he added.

  • jody.beggs - 2012-01-18 11:31

    Crime against humanity or new world order ? Damn the man.

      Alfred - 2012-01-18 11:35

      Or the usual suspects being blamed for nature doing what nature does?

  • Deeteem - 2012-01-18 11:38

    Dear Barbara, were it not for pathetic governance and greed, these countries would not be in this situation !!

  • Richard - 2012-01-18 11:39

    Wait a second , did the AU not tell the international communities to stay out of their buisness, but now want money because the corrupt goverments can't afford to feed their own ? I do feel for the children and people in need , but do not want to feed the goverment purses .

      NrGx - 2012-01-18 11:53

      yup- typical africa mentality, stay out of our business, but can we have money and food. Or it probably is more like Africa: we WANT your money and food. Internationals: ok, show us proof of famine Africa: Stay out of our business Internationals: ok! Africa: You agents! you took too long and killed our people. can we have money

  • koo.doyle - 2012-01-18 11:47

    I fail to see why it is the international community's problem? Surely the answer is not having more children than you can afford to feed and educate?

  • NrGx - 2012-01-18 11:49

    Isnt this the country that first denied a crisis, then a week later begged for food?

  • Nicolas - 2012-01-18 11:54

    I don't see why it is an international problem! All of these African leaders abhor anyone interfering in their affairs, yet are quick to stick their hand out..... and how much of that international aid actually makes it to the masses???? Maybe the African Union should start doing something meaningful for a change...

  • J.D. - 2012-01-18 11:59

    If people live in places that cannot sustain life they must leave. It cannot be a continuing problem for the international community. It is time for Africa to STEP UP.

  • Irene - 2012-01-18 12:02

    So what's the problem? The evil West that doesn't breed what it can't feed, is taking heed of African solutions for AFrica.

  • Mike Bosman - 2012-01-18 12:07

    The fat kat politicians should feed them. Why is it the wests problem?

  • Alexis2719 - 2012-01-18 12:08

    Sorry but its up to them to prepare for these disasters and work towards it or hand over to a government that can provide and plan and educate its people. Oh wait, they want it both ways. Only in Africa lol.

  • Max - 2012-01-18 12:11

    If you can't feed them don't breed them...its the African way.

  • AyGeewils - 2012-01-18 12:12

    Why is this ridicule not aimed at the African countries who dont give a rats ass about what's happing to their neighbours - little wonder donors demand proof of catastrophe - they are fully aware that most of the 'aid' never reaches the victims anyway ... shame on you Africa!

  • Andre - 2012-01-18 12:14

    Why is it always someone else's fault and responsibility? They breed like flies, perpetuate their own poverty, allow their own people to walk all over them and steal their country's resources; and then it is someone else's fault. They NEVER plan ahead. When will Africa ever take RESPONSIBILITY for itself? When will they hold themselves accountable? It seems the more responsible and accountable you are for yourself, the more the irresponsible blame you for their own failings. You are where you are in life because of your OWN actions.

  • J.p. - 2012-01-18 12:22

    I recently read an article written by a British journalist. He asked questions about feeding East Africa and for that matter any African nation. His argument was that the round-eyed, hungry kid that he helped save twenty years ago, is today walking around with sophisticated weapons, kills his own countrymen and has a roaring trade in the piracy 'industry'. In the past 50 years Africa's population has increased by more than 350% and its only true, renewable resource, its nature and wildlife is going down the drain due to an overpopulation of people. Is it right then to say that OXFAM,the World Food Programme, etc are some of the biggest threats to the continent's nature and wildlife?

      Heiku - 2012-01-18 16:22

      That is correct yes.

      Warwick - 2012-01-19 10:00

      100% correct. Breed, breed breed and then beg from the west with the one hand and vilify them with the other. It is time for Africa to take responsibilty for its own.

  • Derek - 2012-01-18 12:25

    Ethiopia said on Wednesday that four of the five tourists killed in the northeast of the country were Europeans and the fifth an Australian....They beg with the one hand and murder with the other...the exact people that feed them....African logic for you there...

  • Garth - 2012-01-18 12:34

    It is high time that the international community as a whole stopped meddling in the affairs of Africa. Everyday we are informed how the `imperialists' must leave `Africa to the Africans'; that we Africans do not need the exploitative west; that America and Britain must no longer involve themselves in the running of Africa. Rabid anti-imperialists and outspoken anti-colonialists berate the involvement of the west in the affairs of the `brown man' and of the `black man'. `You have had your time in Africa, now go back to your own countries'. So, western international aid foundations and `oxfam' and `save the children' stop meddling in the affairs of Africa!

  • John - 2012-01-18 12:36

    not easy to respond to a crices when radicals are trying to kill peace keepers and aid agency workers. sort out the radical problem first , the breeding problem second,and surprise,no problem.

  • barryjohn.tree - 2012-01-18 12:39

    I have long been of the opinion that the major reason for African countries not being able to sustain them self is due to the fact that aid exist. Why should they plant crops if food can fall out of the sky, why should they have a working government if the western countries builds schools and hospitals all in the name of aid. If these countries really want to help, stop all aid and force these countries to get their house in order and become self sustainable as is the case with Somalia who hasn't had a government since 1992. Rather help the country with expertise on how to farm and use their natural resources, or go back to colonization and then both sides can get something out of it.

      busi.carol - 2012-01-18 15:19

      do you understand what is happening in the Horn of Africa?

      Garth - 2012-01-18 15:42

      Methinks you are the one that does not understand what is happening in the `horn' busi.carol, or should we say what has happened since the first aid to that area in the '70s. In the forty years of that region, defunct of functioning governments, receiving aid, the population has increased by over 40%. How can an area with no economy, no functioning agriculture and no governmental structure increase an in-utile population? Food aid. The sick, hungry, tired, lame and lazy live in the various food aid camps - entire generations of them - living on western aid; `mothers' raising children in the camps, fornicating with ANYBODY with a stiff dick, so as to ensure that there is another child if the current crops dies out. This will only cease when the imperialist, colonial west withdraws its aid and leaves these people to their own devices - the asians will not come to their assistance on the same scale - there is nothing `in it' for them.

      busi.carol - 2012-01-18 16:09

      Piont taken. My current view is the political climate of the countory is not assisting the situation. If land is sold to the highest bidder (foreign investors) decreasing the land available for agricultural purposes -for the pocket of some goverment agent then there will be poverty. If the goverment has no intention of finding solutions to their issues facing its people then there will be problem. Having said that we should also consider that this is the worst drought. Again - poverty is like HIV it has oppotunistic diseases - for poverty it will children, abuse etc.

  • - 2012-01-18 13:24

    I like Whackhead's solution - Use the homeless to feed the hungry - This solves 2 problems at once.

  • barryjohn.tree - 2012-01-18 13:42

    Go and read the comments on The comments of these westerners seems like aid will start to run out and fast as most of the views are that contraceptives instead of food and money should be donated, and that they no longer fall for these sad sam stories and photos.

  • Garth - 2012-01-18 13:58

    So, where are all the `get out of Africa, white man' commenters now?

  • Chaapo - 2012-01-18 16:40

    It is called donor fatigue because African governments cannot get their acts together. Too much incompetence and corruption then always a hand out and gimmme gimme mentality. Example is Zimbabwe which never had to rely on food aid but it is now a chronic applicant while farms seized form farmers either lie fallow or are severely underutilized.

      Gerhard - 2012-01-18 17:10

      It is the AU's job to feed and educate their own people. Shame on all these dictators who have got the guts asking for handouts.

  • Marcell - 2012-01-18 22:36

    Why was my comment deleted? To close to the truth??

      Garth - 2012-01-19 07:58

      No Marcel, your comment was not close to the truth - international aid did not force these people to out breed their resources. But it was probably my reply to that comment that got yours deleted.

  • Warwick - 2012-01-19 09:58

    Have we seen any reports from the governments in Esat Africa detailing this problem. Why are these reports always from Oxfam or the US government etc? How come African governments are never the first in line to help their "brothers" in so called distress. If it was not for the fact of unbridled corruption and greed these countries might be able to look after its own people. One thing they can do, no matter how bad the situation is breed.

  • Bert - 2012-01-19 12:50

    These hand outs were being doled out 50 years ago. And while people give, people will take. Education of the masses is needed but will never happen or allowed whilst the despots who rule these countries milk them dry. Education in birth control wouldn't be a bad thing either. Why does the West get pilloried all the time for what happens in Africa. Oil wise, one of the richest nations in the world Nigeria are on their doorstep, didn't see them stepping up to the plate with aid. They're too busy starving their own! It's a no win situation. Leave them to it. Nature will sort it all out.

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