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Africa: Predictable Emergencies
Jan 31, 2006 (060131)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Imagine if your local fire department had to petition the mayor
for money every time it needed water to douse a raging fire. That's
the predicament faced by anguished humanitarian aid workers when
they seek to save lives but have no funds to pay for the water - or
medicine, shelter, or food - urgently needed to put out a fire." -
Jan Egeland, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs
Mr. Egeland was speaking in August 2005 of the crisis in Niger, but
he could equally well have been referring to the latest emergency
due to drought in the Horn of Africa now threatening the lives of
more than 5 million people. The issue, as analysts have repeatedly
noted, is not the absolute shortage of food in the world, or even
on the African continent. It is rather a failure of distribution of
available resources to ensure that those most vulnerable to
predictable disasters have access to the food they need, either
through their own purchasing power or through collective measures
such as food relief.
While longer-term solutions depend on addressing fundamental issues
of poverty and economic inequality, the system of delivering relief
in emergencies also needs repair. One glaring flaw is the fact that
funds must be raised after an emergency has already reached lethal
proportions. Last year the United Nations created a new Central
Emergency Response Fund to address this issue. But so far the Fund
has pledges for only $185 million towards its initial target $500
million and the minimum $1 billion estimated to be needed.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from several recent
press releases by the World Food Programme on the current crisis in
the Horn of Africa, and an October 2005 press release from Oxfam on
the emergency response fund.
Current World Food Programme updates are available at
http://www.wfp.org. For reports from a wide range of agencies,
visit http://www.reliefweb.int. For the full Oxfam report, see
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on related issues, see
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
World Food Programme
Excerpts from recent press releases on African food crisis
For more information:
Peter Smerdon WFP/Nairobi
Tel. +254 (0) 20 7622 179 Mob. 254 (0) 733 528 911
Khartoum, 23 January 2006 - As Africa's leaders gather today for
their AU summit, WFP is calling on the continent's leaders and
international donors to boost their support for its efforts to
tackle hunger and poverty in Africa before millions more lives are
Nearly US$2 billion in food aid will be required in 2006 to ward
off widespread hunger and starvation.
Again and again food crises stare Africa in the face and we are
ringing the alarm bell right now in the Horn of Africa James
Morris, WFP Executive Director "We're afraid that Africa's food
crises are becoming accepted as 'normal'.
"As this year gets underway, drought is threatening disaster in two
vast regions - the Horn and Southern Africa. "This poses huge
challenges to our donors, who are still reeling from the competing
emergencies of 2005, both in Africa and elsewhere," said James
Morris, WFP Executive Director.
"Again and again food crises stare Africa in the face and we are
ringing the alarm bell right now in the Horn of Africa," said
Morris, who is making his fifth visit to southern Africa at the end
of this month, in his capacity as UN Special Envoy. Food first
Food first policy
"We had an incredibly challenging time raising resources for Africa
in 2005. Even with record WFP food aid from our donors, we have
lost so many children on the continent. "African leaders and all
our donors need a food first policy in 2006," Morris said.
Hunger is at its most destructive in Africa where one person in
three is malnourished. And the situation is getting worse: the
number of undernourished Africans rose by 33.1 million between 1992
According to UNICEF, 38 percent of children under the age of five
are stunted, and 28 percent are underweight.
Record hunger levels
WFP is feeding twice as many Africans in crisis than a decade ago.
"These statistics do not augur well for Africa's future and they
cannot be ignored, especially since the world has produced enough
food for everyone on the planet for decades," said Morris.
"A combination of poverty, conflict, HIV/AIDS, drought and a
weakened capacity for government has caused record levels of hunger
stretching across the continent, from north to south and from west
In 2006, WFP aims to provide food assistance to some 43 million
people across Africa, with a price tag of over US$1.8 billion:
Of the 43 million Africans requiring food assistance, some 35
million are in need of emergency food aid.
The highest numbers of needy to be targeted by WFP are some 18
million in 11 countries of East Africa, where an emerging food
crisis caused by drought is threatening the lives of an estimated
5.4 million people across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
In Southern Africa, where HIV/AIDS has hit hardest, WFP seeks to
assist 9.2 million people in seven countries. And in West Africa,
where war and poverty are the main scourges, WFP anticipates that
at least 8.5 million people require urgent food aid in 14 countries
across the Sahel region.
"While our donors were exceptionally generous last year, providing
us with some US$2 billion US dollars to run operations in 40
African countries we were approximately US$550 million short of
our requirements for that period" said Morris.
"Each region in Africa has its own problems and suffering the need
for humanitarian assistance is almost overwhelming.
"We need aid pledges now. As we've learned repeatedly in the past,
delivering late costs far more than delivering now and it costs
lives." Morris concluded.
WFP warns of Kenya drought disaster
Nairobi, 25 January 2006 - WFP has given a stark warning of a
humanitarian disaster in Kenya because of drought.
WFP said the country would run out of food aid within weeks for 2.5
million people in the drought-stricken north and east unless new
donations were received immediately.
"Since our last appeal in December, we have received very little
against the growing needs," said WFP Executive Director James
"We don't have enough for the 1.2 million people we are currently
feeding, let alone the expected increase to 2.5 million or more in
February," said Morris.
"We are moving whatever food we have to the north and the east,"
said WFP Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash. "But our stocks are
very low and insufficient for February distributions. Without new
donations, we will only be able to feed a fraction of these 1.2
million people just when we should be more than doubling that
number," he said.
"We have warned and appealed for months for contributions to save
lives in drought-hit Kenya," Negash added. "We are in the midst of
an emergency. If we receive no new donations now, it is extremely
likely that Kenya will be hit by a humanitarian disaster in the
months to come," he said.
WFP requires some 350,000 metric tons of food valued at US$238
million to feed the anticipated 2.5 million people in Kenya this
year, but is already short US$43 million to feed just 1.2 million
The Kenya drought is part of the latest crisis sweeping across the
Horn of Africa with 1.4 million people needing emergency food aid
from WFP in southern Somalia, 1.5 million people in Ethiopia and
60,000 in Djibouti.
Pastoralists have therefore been unable to migrate to fallback
areas to save their livestock. Because of the lack of food and
water, livestock particularly cattle, but also sheep, camels,
donkeys and goats are dying in large numbers in arid northern
Kenya, where pastoralists are entirely dependent on their herds.
Women and children are begging at roadsides and large-scale
migrations are underway, leading to growing conflict over land and
access to wells.
Pastoralists are resorting to extreme steps, such as killing their
newborn calves in the hope that the mother can survive. They are
also carrying out mercy killings of livestock before they drop
This crisis was caused by the failure of the October-December short
rains in the north and very erratic and patchy rains in eastern
But the impact is compounded because people have lost their ability
to cope after five years of drought in much of Kenya since 1999
with a break only in 2003.
WFP and its partners, including the Government of Kenya, are
conducting field assessments in the worst drought-affected
districts this month to confirm the exact number in need of
emergency food aid, but it will be at least 2.5 million people.
Full results will be known in early February.
Growing number of needy
"For the hardest-hit districts, information from our field
assessments show that the numbers in need of emergency food aid
will more than double," Negash said. "The total number will be
announced as soon as possible, but the needs are already far in
excess of our resources."
Launched by the WFP and the Government in July 2004 after poor
rains in eastern, southern and parts of northern Kenya, the drought
emergency operation was extended in September for six months for
1.2 million people.
WFP is also feeding more than one million school children - most of
them in drought-affected areas.
Dakar, 16 January 2006 - WFP has called on the international
community to rally strongly behind its efforts to tackle hunger and
poverty in West Africa, the poorest region of the world.
In 2006, WFP is aiming to feed at least ten million people in West
Africa with over 300,000 metric tons of food at a cost of
approximately US$237 million.
To date, only US$18.4 million has been confirmed or about eight
percent of total requirements.
"Only last year we saw in Niger what happens when poverty is
allowed to take root and fester livelihoods collapse and people,
especially young children, suffer terribly and even die," said WFP
Senior Deputy Executive Director, Jean-Jacques Graisse, who is on
mission to Dakar.
"Conflict has also destroyed lives and many still need assistance
to deal with the immediate consequences of violence and
displacement or to pick up the pieces as peace returns. WFP has a
huge job to do in 2006," he said.
Despite a good harvest at the end of 2005, the Sahel region will
face another difficult year.
Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and particularly Niger all suffered
great hardship during the 2005 'hunger season' and the poorest are
likely to find themselves in a precarious situation again, their
survival strategies exhausted and their purchasing power depleted.
In Niger in particular, crushing poverty and crippling debt
continue to undermine the ability of rural families to fend for
WFP's emergency operation is currently focused on maintaining
assistance to malnourished children. It also includes food-for-work
projects and the replenishment of cereal banks in poor villages to
reinforce people's ability to withstand another tough year.
However, WFP's current operation in Niger still requires nearly
US$22 million to avoid a break in food supply as early as next
Deeper into poverty
"The Sahel region has for too long been allowed to slip deeper and
deeper into poverty, despite relative stability and democratic
"Access to food is at the very heart of human existence and yet
poverty means that millions of people right here in West Africa
wake up each day uncertain how they are going to feed themselves,"
Access to food is at the very heart of human existence and yet
poverty means that millions of people right here in West Africa
wake up each day uncertain how they are going to feed themselves
The future of Liberia took a positive turn with the successful
conclusion of elections at the end of 2005, closing the chapter on
a 14-year war that tore the country apart.
However, society and infrastructure remain traumatised and
dislocated and in order to ensure a successful recovery, WFP is
feeding about 700,000 people in the country.
This includes at least 50,000 people who fled their homes during
the conflict to camps within Liberia and have yet to be resettled,
and another 75,000 refugees in neighbouring countries still to
return home under WFP assistance.
While Liberia recovers, Ivory Coast teeters between peace and a
renewed conflict that has the potential to destabilise much of the
WFP's current operation targeting nearly one million food-insecure
people is reinforced by a contingency plan to feed an additional
350,000 ready to roll out at short notice should the situation
The worrying recent deterioration in security in eastern Chad is
yet to have an impact on food deliveries to 12 camps that are home
to over 200,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur conflict, but an
escalation of hostilities could have a dramatic impact on
Insecurity in the northern reaches of the Central African Republic
also increased the number of refugees crossing into southern Chad
to over 40,000.
Even stable countries making good economic progress such as Senegal
have significant food and nutrition needs.
Over the next five years, WFP is planning to double the number of
school children receiving free meals to a quarter of a million as
part of efforts to improve nutrition and access to primary
education in the country.
Across the region
In the West African region, WFP also has operations in Benin, Cape
Verde, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and
The Gambia a total of 18 offices.
All countries in which WFP has offices are classified as
low-income, food-deficit. Fourteen are among the bottom 20 percent
of UNDP's Human Development Index, the lowest seven of which are
all West African countries.
An estimated 3.2 million children under five-years-old in the
region suffer from acute malnutrition and nine million from chronic
"Almost every social and economic indicator sees West African
countries at the base of the list. The need for humanitarian
assistance is in many cases overwhelming, but the ability to
deliver it is not always guaranteed.
"We need the resources to do so as we've learned time and time
again, delivering late costs far more than delivering now," Graisse
Vital $1 billion UN emergency fund seriously underfunded
Oxfam press release - 24 October 2005
Governments have so far failed to respond to the urgent need for a
one billion dollar global emergency fund, according to a new
briefing paper published by Oxfam International today [Predictable
funding for humanitarian emergencies: a challenge to donors]. The
failure to contribute to the fund continues, despite recent
humanitarian disasters exposing major shortcomings in governments'
Lack of funding for the most recent crisis in Pakistan (where, as
of 20 October, the UN appeal is only 25 per cent funded) and other
crises, including the Niger food crisis, has demonstrated why a
fully funded UN global emergency fund that would make resources
available immediately is so essential.
Greg Puley, Oxfam's policy advisor, said that rich donor
governments including the US, Belgium, Italy, France, Canada and
Australia have so far failed to pledge a cent to the fund.
"This global emergency fund could stop some disasters, like
famines, from spiralling out of control. For disasters that are
unstoppable, it could save thousands of lives by speeding up the
world's response. This year, too many people have died in
emergencies because money simply hasn't arrived," said Puley. "Two
weeks after the Pakistan earthquake, the UN is having to spend time
begging for funds instead of being able to concentrate solely on
saving lives. A UN global emergency fund would help change this for
Oxfam's report, Predictable Funding for Humanitarian Emergencies:
a Challenge to Donors, shows that this global fund, formally called
the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF), is still more than 80
per cent away from Oxfam's target of US$1 billion. Each year there
is a funding shortfall to UN humanitarian appeals of at least US$1
Only seven governments - UK, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland,
Switzerland and Luxembourg - have pledged money to date. The total
pledges to the CERF fund so far amount to only US$187 million.
However, Oxfam estimates that a fund of US$1billion is needed to
ensure that the UN can respond immediately to future disasters.
Oxfam is stressing that this additional US$1billion which amounts
to less than US$1 per year for each person in the rich OECD
countries must come on top of governments existing aid budgets.
The Oxfam report has calculated how much each government should
contribute to the fund according to the size of their economy, in
order to reach the target of US$1billion. Oxfam is calling on
governments to make pledges in advance of the UN General Assembly
discussion of the issue in late November.
"The fact that only seven governments have contributed so far is
disappointing. If this fund is to save all of the lives that it
could, rich countries like the US, Belgium, Italy, France, Canada
and Australia must support it. Continued apathy will mean more
people die unnecessarily in future disasters. It's time to learn
the lessons of the past and act on them," said Greg Puley, Oxfam's
As well as the inadequate response to the Pakistan Earthquake, the
Oxfam report also points to the example of the food crisis in Niger
this year. Despite being warned of a food shortage months in
advance and the UN launching an emergency appeal, donor governments
failed to pledge significant funds until the media reported
children dying from malnutrition.
In contrast to the current system in which governments often take
months to respond to UN appeals, the new system would make money
available in hours. It would also mean that crises that never make
the headlines, like those in Northern Uganda or the Democratic
Republic of the Congo also get their fair share of attention.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
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