$3.9 billion pledged to prevent E. Africa famines
By TOM ODULA
NAIROBI, Kenya -- International donors say they won't allow a repeat of last
year's Horn of Africa famine and are gearing up to spend billions of dollars
on programs to help communities withstand cyclical droughts.
International donors have pledged to spend $3.9 billion on programs like
crop resiliency over the next five years, Raj Shah, the head of the U.S. aid
arm known as USAID, said in an interview late Wednesday.
The British government estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 died in
last year's famine in Somalia and drought in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and
Djibouti. More than 12 million people needed food aid at some points. But
the suffering was the worst in Somalia, where Islamist militants refused to
allow in aid.
"The loss of life and the incredible human suffering was so tremendous
during this last drought and we realized coming out of that ... we need to
internationalize and build a global movement to make real significant
investments in resilience," Shah said.
Shah said it costs less to the help people in Horn of Africa be able to
withstand drought than to distribute aid during a crisis.
"Today we live a world where we know droughts will be more frequent and more
common because of a changing climate in the Horn ... so we simply have got
to learn from the past and make the investments that are more efficient and
that save the international community resources over time because
humanitarian needs go down," he said.
He said a broader commitment of resources is designed to be more efficient
and allow vulnerable communities "more dignity than a cycle of drought,
destruction and humanitarian assistance."
Shah said USAID, donor groups and IGAD - a regional bloc of seven countries
- will implement programs to give people in dry-land areas and pastoral
communities access to affordable water.
He said the group will also focus on protecting children from malnutrition
and promote dialogue between communities so they can help each other when
resources are scarce.
Shah said USAID is going to invest $280 million over the next two years in
projects to promote resilience in communities in the Horn of Africa. The
European Union announced Wednesday it has set aside around $310 million for
the projects. The World Bank is pledging $1.8 billion. Other donors are also
The billions in pledges will be spent in countries where corruption can be a
major problem. Somalia last year was ranked the most corrupt country in the
world while Kenya is ranked 154th out of 183 nations by anti-corruption
campaigners Transparency International. Ethiopia is ranked 120th.
Shah said the transparency and performance of many sub-Saharan African
governments has been improving but corruption still exists. He said the
USAID will work only with organizations that support transparency and
Anti-corruption crusader Mwalimu Mati said African governments have enough
domestic resources to ensure that their citizens are insulated from drought,
but because of corruption they seek external help from donors. Mati said
African governments need to spend more time fighting corruption and spend
less time talking about it.
"People never resign from governments, get prosecuted and jailed even after
they are implicated in scandals," Mati said.
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Received on Fri Apr 06 2012 - 08:49:13 EDT