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  • Written by IRIN ks/cb

Donor fatigue: World Food Programme halves food rations to refugees

A refugee at Dzaleka camp in Malawi holds up her food ration card. The World Food Programme have cut rations to refugees at Dzaleka by half. Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN.[JOHANNESBURG] The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has halved food rations to refugees living in camps in at least four African countries citing a funding shortfall.

The cuts have already affected 16,000 refugees in Malawi’s Dzaleka camp who have been on half rations since March, while a further 120,000 refugees in Uganda began receiving half rations of cereals in May.

According to WFP, another 100,000 refugees in Tanzania saw their maize rations cut by 50 percent starting from last week, and rations for some 54,000 refugees living in Rwanda are expected to be cut in August unless donors come forward with more funding.

“Even the full ration wasn’t enough,” said Sanky Kabeya, a 24-year-old resident of Dzaleka who spoke to IRIN at the end of March. “I haven’t taken breakfast this morning and many are in the same situation.”

  • Written by Niamh Griffin, w&m

Africa: Media and charities blamed for image of a continent in permanent crisis

In many African countries, there have been dramatic and accelerating falls in child mortality in the last 10 years, yet many believe Africa is stagnating or regressing. Graph: PMI.gov.Changes in Africa and the impact of overseas aid are not being effectively communicated to the public, a recent conference on development messages in Dublin has heard.

Organised by Dóchas, the umbrella group for Irish aid agencies and IDEA (the Irish Development Education Association), speakers addressed the findings of a survey into Ireland’s attitude to overseas aid.

The IPSOS/MRBI poll found while 88 per cent of those surveyed are proud of the general aid programme, awareness of aid and its effect was low.

Many of those questioned (44%) thought Africa had not changed in 20 years (31%) or was worse off (14%). But this stands in sharp contrast to reports from the World Bank, McKinsey and The Economist showing dramatic improvements during this time in some parts of the region.

UN data on child mortality show that under-5 mortality dropped rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 20 years, and at an increasing rate: the rate of decline doubled from 1.2 per cent a year during 1990-2000 to 2.4 per cent a year during 2000-2010. The fall in child mortality in Africa was described recently by The Economist as "the best story in development".

“This research suggests that, despite clear progress in many developing countries, the good news stories from Africa are not reaching the general public. We now need a broader approach to informing the Irish people about the contribution that we in Ireland are making around the world,” the head of Dochas, Hans Zomer said.

The conference addressed a number of possible reasons for this disconnect according to Zomer.

The first is the survey showed most people learn about developing countries in the news, and news by its nature tends to focus on crisis events such as war or famine. Zomer said this can lead to countries like Somalia dominating headlines while prospering Ghana rarely features.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Horn of Africa: EU to fund disaster preparedness as crisis continues

An International Livestock Research Institute researcher discusses a livestock insurance scheme intended to mitigate the effects of drought with nomadic herders in northern Kenya's drylands. Photo: ILRI/Flickr.On Friday (March 16), the European Commission launched a major new disaster preparedness initiative for the Horn of Africa.

"SHARE" (Supporting the Horn of Africa's Resilience) was discussed at a high-level international conference in Copenhagen coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Danish aid agency, DANIDA. It was reported that the EU allocated €250 million ($329 million) to the scheme, which aims to strengthen resilience in the region to drought and other crises.

Almost 10 million people continue to be affected by the food crisis in the Horn of Africa according to Ireland’s Minister of State for Development, Joe Costello.

Speaking meeting with EU development ministers in Copenhagen, Mr Costello said the focus is on improving coordination between the various international bodies delivering aid to the region.

“Conditions are particularly difficult in Somalia where we have been calling on all parties to ensure that humanitarian agencies are given full, safe and unhindered access to those in need,” he said.

  • Written by IRIN aj/cb

Drought response lesson one: water, seeds and fodder are better than food

Forecasters warned of Horn of Africa drought last year but the alerts went largely unheeded. Photo: Flickr/Oxfam International [DAKAR] Move away from “food-first” responses and lay more stress on water and livelihoods; intervene early - it saves money and lives: These are a couple of the lessons emerging from the past four years of drought response, according to the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP).

ALNAP pored over 200 evaluations and lessons-learned reports since 2007. “The fact that 200 lessons-learned reports have been done is a sign of progress,” said Paul Knox-Clarke head of research and communications at ALNAP. “Agencies are now more consistent and rigorous in terms of thinking about what they’re doing, and recording it.”

Areas of progress include far more sophisticated cash responses - there has been “vast learning” about using cash in drought situations, said Knox-Clarke; while the development-to-relief continuum is now pretty much accepted as the way forward in drought situations, “there seems to be little argument about the need for disaster-aware development programmes, and humanitarian programmes that can look more long-term and segue into livelihoods models,” he continued.

Likewise, beneficiary accountability has significantly improved he said.

But where the whole system needs to buck up, is responding to early warning. “So much good work has been done around early warning systems, but this still does not necessarily trigger response,” said Knox-Clarke.

Here are some of the lessons outlined in the report:

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Horn of Africa: Irish official aid and private donations total €20m

Wajir district, northeastern Kenya. Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN.Donations of close to twelve million euro have been collected in Ireland for the famine-stricken Horn of Africa according to aid-workers in addition to more than seven million pledged in state aid.

Director of Dóchas, an umbrella organisation of more than 40 Irish aid agencies and development organisations, Mr Hans Zomer said the public money had been collected through sponsored walks and other activities in the last six weeks.

“It is wonderful of the Irish people to come and give aid to people who are suffering. It is a phenomenally positive response,” he said.

“The important message is that the needs of the people there are very great, and they are likely to grow. The next harvest will be in November, and until then people will have to depend on food aid.”

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