A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam reveals $800 million black hole in aid response to crisis
Several rich governments are guilty of wilful neglect as the aid effort to avert catastrophe in East Africa limps along due to an $800 million shortfall, Oxfam said today. With the gravity of the crisis increasing daily, the agency said both international donors and regional governments need to step up urgently their response.
Of the estimated $1 billion needed to stave off a major humanitarian catastrophe, only around $200 million in new money has so far been provided. With aid agencies battling to cope with the scale of the crisis, Oxfam said it was morally indefensible that several rich countries and donors had failed to contribute generously.
“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 recognise the severity of this crisis, but there is no longer any excuse for inaction,” said Fran Equiza, Oxfam's Regional Director.
The UK has so far led the way in pledging new aid. To fill the funding black hole, other traditional big donors will need to make comparable contributions. 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. A massive increase in emergency aid is needed now to save lives and protect livelihoods, but 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 facing starvation,” said Equiza
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 which has forced 135,000 people to flee Somalia this year. Tens of thousands more have had to flee into conflict-torn Mogadishu.
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.
Read the report: East Africa Food Crisis: Poor rains, poor response
Oxfam's humanitarian response to the East Africa food crisis
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 still remaining: 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 gap of $800m still remaining.
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.
Alun McDonald (Nairobi), Mobile: +254 73666 6663 ; Office: +254 202820147, twitter: @alunmcdonald