Oxfam: long-term recovery sidelined in East Africa food crisis

Published: 2 May 2006

Nairobi, May 1 – Lack of funding means sustainable solutions to East Africa's food crisis are being put at risk, warns aid agency Oxfam International today. According to the organization, resources are being taken from long-term projects in order to fund short-term relief. Oxfam's warning comes as United Nations Special Envoy for the Crisis, Mr. Kjell Bondevik, completes a four day tour of the region.

"Emergency relief is needed now and more of it. Donors are right to make this the first priority, but there needs to be a plan to help rebuild lives as well as save them. We risk getting into a pernicious cycle where money for long-term recovery is being diverted to fund emergency relief," said Paul Smith Lomas, Head of Oxfam in East Africa. "If long-term projects are raided every time we face a crisis, the region will never progress. Instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, additional funds should be made available now to support both strands."

The consolidated UN appeal for Somalia, that was launched March 21st, is only just over a quarter funded (27 per cent). Of this money, the vast majority goes to food aid, drinking water and sanitation activities. Despite an appeal for longer-term economic recovery and infrastructure to accompany the immediate needs, not a single pledge has so far been made by any donor. Agricultural rehabilitation has so far received a paltry five per cent of the funds requested.

In the case of Ethiopia, while food aid requirements are 78 per cent funded and water and sanitation needs are 64 per cent met, only 1 per cent of the funds requested to meet longer-term solutions have been received.

"Emergency relief is essential to save lives but we also need to be actively planning and resourcing a plan for the future. If we don't do this now, we could be stuck in crisis mode for years to come. We are working on short term interventions and long term plans. The donor community should follow suit," said Degan Ali, Executive Director of Horn Relief, an international, Somali-based partner organization of Oxfam.

According to Oxfam, there is an acute need to complement life-saving relief aid with structural and livelihoods programs in order to reduce pastoralists' increased vulnerability to recurrent droughts and chronic food insecurity. Oxfam is already working on longer-term projects such as the provision of veterinary services, improving infrastructure and supporting livelihood diversification.

UN agencies and non-governmental organizations have been urging longer-term activities to build resilience to future shocks as a way for people in the region to escape the vicious cycle of crisis following crisis.

In addition to food aid, alternative relief programs such as so-called cash-for-work programs are needed. These programs are designed to improve infrastructure, bolster the local economy and thereby reduce vulnerability. By giving cash rather than food aid, the schemes are also designed to maintain incentives for local business people to provide food and other materials needed in the area. However, in the current funding context, support for such projects is scarce.

Contact Information

For more details please contact:
- Wyger Wentholt, Oxfam Novib Regional Media & Advocacy Officer for the
Horn, East- and Central-Africa region, +254-(0)20-3741920/-6, -3741951,
mobile: +254-(0)724-922839; wyger.wentholt@oxfamnovib.or.ke
- Beatrice Karanja, Oxfam GB Regional Media and Communications Officer for
the Horn, East-, and Central-Africa region, +254-(0)726-875507 or
+254-(0)20-2820136; bkaranja@oxfam.org.uk
- Greg Beals, Oxfam America Media Officer, Ethiopia, +251-(0)911-831248,
gbeals@oxfamamerica.org