Ottawa – Oxfam is calling on international donors and regional governments to urgently step up their response to the food crisis in East Africa as the gravity of the situation increases. Of the estimated $1 billion (US) needed to stave off a major humanitarian catastrophe, only around $200 million in new money has so far been provided.
“There is no time to waste if we are to avoid massive loss of life. We must not stand by and watch this tragedy unfold before our eyes. The world has been slow to recognize the severity of this crisis, but there is no longer any excuse for inaction,” said Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director Robert Fox.
Canada’s Minister for International Cooperation, Bev Oda, will be in the region this week and is expected to announce Canada’s contribution to the relief effort.
“Canada has been generous in its early support of UN agencies and Canadian NGOs on the ground,” said Robert Fox. “But with other governments dragging their feet it’s ever more important that Canada continue to show leadership in the face of this increasingly tragic situation. We look forward to Minister Oda’s announcement this week.”
The European response has been surprisingly slow, with donors such as Italy and Denmark so far not providing anything new. The French have been strong on words, calling for an Extraordinary G20 meeting on the issue, but have so far failed to back it up with any additional money. Other donors such as Germany and Spain have made initial contributions but these are small and need to be followed up with more resources as soon as possible. Given the scale of the crisis, donors in the rest of the world will also need to pay their share.
Oxfam called for a radical shake-up of the international aid system, to break the cycle that leaves the poorest people limping from one crisis to the next.
Severe drought – the driest year in six decades in some parts of the region – has undoubtedly led to the huge scale of the disaster, however this crisis has been caused by people and policies as much as nature. Oxfam said that a massive increase in emergency aid is needed now to save lives and protect livelihoods, but that governments and donors must also do more to address the issues that make people vulnerable in the first place.
“A crisis of this magnitude must not be allowed to happen again. It is in no way inevitable and solutions do exist. The worst affected areas have endured decades of marginalization and economic under-development. If more action had been taken earlier we would not now be at the stage where so many people are dying,” said Robert Fox.
As well as chronic neglect, in some areas people’s ability to cope with drought has also been undermined by land policies that restrict access to grazing areas, and by the ongoing conflict in Somalia which has destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure and exacerbated the refugee crisis forcing 135,000 people to flee Somalia this year.
Malnutrition rates in the Dolo Ado camps for Somali refugees in Ethiopia have been recorded more than four times the level considered an emergency, and in some areas between 60-90 percent of livestock have already died. Funds for water, sanitation, nutrition and agricultural or livestock responses are particularly low.
Notes to editors
- The overall humanitarian requirements for the region this year, according to the UN appeals, are $1.87 billion. These are so far 45 percent funded, leaving a gap of over $1 billion: gaps of $332m and $296m for the Kenya and Somalia UN appeals respectively, and $398m for the government-run appeal in Ethiopia.
- In the last two weeks there have been new pledges of $205m, leaving a gapof $800m.
- The UK has pledged an estimated $145m in the past two weeks – almost 15 percent of what is needed.
- The EU has pledged around $8m so far, with more expected in the coming days.
- Spain has pledged nearly $10m. Germany around $8.5m. France has so far not pledged any new money, and Denmark and Italy have said no significant new sums are available.
- To date, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has provided over $22 million for humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa. Over $11 million of those funds were dedicated to help conflict and drought-affected refugees in Somalia and Kenya. Minister Bev Oda is expected to announce additional assistance this Friday.
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