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Aid groups: With new Africa drought looming, donors must speed response

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“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.

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