Thursday, September 8, 2011

An aid agency being honest?

Well, reasonably honest. We are talking about Médecins Sans Frontières, which has gone against the usual compound of pointless boasting and demands for more funds that aid agencies and NGOs indulge in as a matter of course.
Four million Somalis are said to be in crisis. Given that insecurity is limiting international aid groups’ activities and some have been banned from territory controlled by Islamist rebels, to what extent are they actually able to help?

"We know we are not yet fully meeting the enormous needs the Somali people are facing," the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, said in Nairobi this week, while stressing that additional funds are now enabling international and local agencies to scale up their work in famine-hit regions.

Around 1.2 million people received food assistance in August, for example. That's up from 750,000 in July, but still only covers just over a quarter of those who are going hungry.

Merlin's move to expand its clinics follows comments from a top official at another medical aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who accused other agencies of "glossing over the man-made causes of hunger and starvation in the region and the difficulties in addressing them."
Unni Karunakara, president of MSF's International Council wrote that
that many aid and media organisations have portrayed Somalia’s emergency in "one-dimensional terms," ascribing it largely to the severe drought affecting large parts of East Africa.

"But only blaming natural causes ignores the complex geopolitical realities exacerbating the situation and suggests that the solution lies in merely finding funds and shipping enough food," he said.

He added that it's the war between hardline Islamist rebels and the transitional government, backed by the international community, "that has kept independent international assistance away from many communities."
MSF continues to work in Somalia but has at least a glimmering of why the problems stay and stay and stay.

Here is the full article on Comment Is Free. For once the responses are interesting, too.

Let us not forget that the African Union leaders, who talk long and loud about African needs and African brotherhood, have failed their brothers and sisters who are suffering from famine (again). Perhaps, they, too, are suffering from aid fatigue though their help and donations have been little enough; or, perhaps, they do not want anyone to look too closely at the political reasons for the frequently repeated crises.


  1. Drought may be a natural phenomenon, but famine is invariably man-made.