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Africa: Tsunami Side-Effects

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Feb 15, 2005 (050215)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Donations to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) operations in Africa dropped by 21 percent in January 2005 compared to the first month of 2004. Warning of an apparent 'tsunami effect' rippling across Africa, WFP executive director James Morris called for new efforts to counter donor neglect of urgent humanitarian needs on the continent.

In dramatic contrast to the rapid response from donors to UN agency appeals for the Indian Ocean tsunami, the shortfall in response to appeals for African emergencies, whether related to drought or conflict, is growing rather than diminishing. UN officials and others have expressed the hope that the generosity of response to the tsunami could be extended to other areas. So far, however, the principal effect seems to have been to intensify the humanitarian "double standard" in which Africa comes last.

For example, the WFP current emergency operation to help Sudanese refugees return home to southern Sudan and rebuild their lives this year is funded at just 7 percent with a massive shortfall of US$279 million. And rations for Sudanese and other refugees in Ethiopia have been slashed by 30 percent as a result of funding shortages.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts highlighting this issue, from a February 14 World Food Program news release and from a recent statement to the United Nations Security Council by Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on UN humanitarian appeals and donor response, see and

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Tsunami Overshadows Aid for Africa's Hungry

World Food Program

News Release

14 February 2005

[excerpt: for full news release, with contact information for WPF, see]

Rome - With 22 million people in Africa desperately short of food, the United Nations World Food Programme called today for the world to respond to the continent's hunger with the same commitment and compassion shown recently towards the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Donations to WFP's operations in Africa dropped by 21 percent in January 2005 to US$24 million compared to US$29 million in the first month of 2004. Globally, contributions to WFP's work in Africa represented just eight percent of the total received by the agency, compared with 20 percent in January 2004.

"By responding so vigorously to the tsunami, the world admirably demonstrated how much it cares for millions of people facing extraordinary suffering," said WFP Executive Director James Morris.

"The challenge we now face is to ensure that a 'tsunami effect' does not ripple across Africa, drawing funds away from humanitarian operations there and adding Sudanese, Angolan and Liberian victims to its toll. I'm sure that donors to the tsunami disaster will not allow their generosity to be at the expense of hungry people in Africa, however far from the global spotlight they are," said Morris.

The January contributions of US$24 million to WFP were for operations to help feed 22 million people with critical needs in 22 countries. These include Lesotho and Angola in the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa, Eritrea in the northeast and war-ravaged Liberia and Cote D'Ivoire in the west.


Despite a welcome increase of $80 million in early February, donations for Africa amount to just five percent of the US$1.9 billion needed by WFP to reach the most vulnerable and hungry people there in 2005. Overall food needs in Africa represent two thirds of WFP's global requirements.

This stands in stark contrast to the almost full funding pledged towards the UN's tsunami appeal for US$977 million, launched in January. The cost of assisting a tsunami survivor is estimated at US$1.07 per person per day in 2005 under the joint UN appeal compared with just US$0.16 per person for assistance in Africa.

For the 26 December tsunami, WFP appealed for food for up to two million people and has received full funding for that at US$0.51 per person per day.

Overshadowed by news of the tsunami and the outpouring of international assistance, the Sudanese government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed an agreement on 9 January to end Africa's longest-running civil war. Both sides to the conflict have warned that the peace could still be lost if the international community fails to help.

After donors have invested billions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Sudan over the past three decades, WFP's current emergency operation to help people return home and rebuild their lives this year is ironically funded at just 7 percent with a massive shortfall of US$279 million.

Rations for Sudanese and other refugees in Ethiopia have been slashed by 30 percent as a result of funding shortages.

In addition, in five countries across southern Africa, 5.6 million people are struggling against the triple threat of HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and their dwindling capacity to produce food. WFP has so far received less than 10 percent of the contributions needed to help them survive through 2007.

WFP was forced to cut rations for more than 2.8 million people in southern Africa in the second half of 2004 because of a shortage of funds. Many of those beneficiaries are living with HIV/AIDS and many are children - those who can least afford to miss meals, and for whom malnutrition can have irreversible consequences.

As stability returns to West Africa, there is an urgent need to restore communities and secure peace after over a decade of war. WFP's operation in Liberia is suffering from serious shortfalls and since June last year the agency has had to reduce rations for hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people. Many of them would like to go home, but with their homes and farms destroyed during the war, they will need food aid to tide them over until they can produce enough food for themselves.


"Every child, no matter where they live, deserves the same care and concern," said Morris. "Whether they are in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, or Uganda and Ethiopia, children urgently need our help. I very much hope that the scale of support following the tsunami bodes well for those in need in Africa too."


Security Council Consultations:
Humanitarian Challenges in Africa

Statement by Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

27 Jan 2005

[excerpts: full statement available in Word format on OCHA website]


Overview of Major Challenges

Despite all our efforts, the impact of the conflicts in Africa on civilians is still as devastating as it has been for many months, in some cases years. In December, fighting in Eastern DRC - in the area around Kanyabayonga in North Kivu - led to the displacement of more than 150,000 people, the evacuation of humanitarian workers, and the suspension of supplementary feeding for about 1,300 children. MONUC's deployment of a buffer force has allowed some of the displaced to return, but this massive displacement within a few days again showed the appalling levels of violence that is being directed at civilians in this part of the DRC. It seems that few combatants were actually killed or wounded during this incident. The cumulative effect of the conflict in DRC on the civilian population, however, is staggering: more than 3.8 million people killed since 1998. This amounts to the toll of more than a dozen Tsunamis. With an estimated 1,000 people dying in DRC every day, most due to easily preventable and treatable illnesses, a death toll of Tsunami proportions is reached about every six months.

In Darfur, the violence also continues, still forcing tens of thousands to flee their villages and even their IDP camps in the last two months. Last week, almost 10,000 fled a number of villages in northern areas of South Darfur to seek safety and assistance in Manawashi and Mershing. In one destroyed village alone, Hamada, it appears that more than 100 civilians were killed, the majority of them women and children. All sides are heavily armed, despite the arms embargo imposed by this Council last July, and the fighting may well escalate again. The high level of insecurity, particularly in South and West Darfur, is severely limiting our ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people who depend on our assistance to survive. In December, WFP managed to reach 1.5 million people, a significant achievement, but still 500,000 less than the target for December. In January, they have reached about 900,000 so far, only about 50 percent of their target. The access problems are resulting in significant shortfalls in other critical sectors as well, affecting several hundred thousand IDPs and host communities.

What we have been witnessing in Darfur, large parts of Somalia, the Pool region of the Republic of Congo and several other conflict-affected parts of the continent is a deadly combination: insecurity, limited access, and massive humanitarian needs that keep rising as we struggle to catch up.

Apart from conflict, recurrent droughts continue to take their toll in the Horn of Africa. In Eritrea alone, some 2.2 million people out of a total population of 3.8 million need food assistance, and the maternal malnutrition rate of 53 percent is among the highest in the world. Similarly, in Somalia and Ethiopia, successive seasons of drought have led to loss of assets, livestock and severe food insecurity in many parts of both countries.

Last, but by no means least, there are six million people in six countries in Southern Africa who will be unable to meet their food needs this year, primarily as result of the "triple threat" of food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and weakened capacity for governance. Most destructive is the impact of HIV/AIDS. Last year alone, AIDS caused close to one million deaths in the region. In Southern Africa, there are now four million orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS alone, giving rise to the sad phenomenon of "child-headed households", left on their own, shunned by neighbors, often HIV-infected, with no protection and little access to the basics for survival.

Varied Response by the International Community

Mr. President,

How the international community has responded to each of the humanitarian crises in Africa varies greatly, resulting in gross inequities that we must find new and more effective ways of addressing. The chart we distributed shows the funding UN agencies and NGOs received for each of the consolidated appeals in Africa for 2004. The coverage ranges from less than 10 percent for Zimbabwe and less than 40 percent for the Central African Republic and Cote D'Ivoire, to around three quarters of the appeals met for Sudan, Chad and Uganda. Without a doubt, the Security Council helped galvanize the attention and funding we were able to generate for the crises in Darfur and northern Uganda last year.

I would like to make two specific observations regarding these figures. The first relates to the situations in Chad and Guinea, two of the poorest countries in Africa, that have been hosting large refugee populations. The international response to the needs of the refugees by and large has been generous. But the political and humanitarian impact on the two host countries and their populations has been great, and severely neglected. For example, vital projects in Guinea Forestiere aimed at economic recovery and rehabilitation received no funding at all in 2004. Many agencies have had similar difficulties trying to assist the host communities in eastern Chad. This kind of imbalance is not only inequitable, it is also a recipe for rising tension between refugees and host communities, further instability in already fragile countries, and potential threats to regional peace and security. We know from bitter experience what the potential consequences are, so we need to provide much greater assistance to those host countries and communities, both in terms of humanitarian relief and political engagement.

The second point relates to the funding levels for appeals in several countries that have peacekeeping operations. It is very troubling that in 2004 the appeals for Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia were all less than 50 percent funded (44, 34 and 48 percent, respectively). These countries are on the Council's agenda and do not easily fit into the "forgotten emergency" category, and yet their appeals have been so severely underfunded. We know that each of these countries is in a critical phase and could easily slide back into conflict, joining the 44 percent of post-conflict countries that do so. The underfunding of essential humanitarian activities greatly exacerbates this risk, particularly when we are unable to assist in the return and reintegration of IDPs and refugees, or in the reintegration of former combatants. In Liberia, only about 12,000 of the 500,000 IDPs, and a few thousand of the 360,000 refugees have returned so far. These numbers are expected to multiply in 2005 and we will have to be ready to assist those returning and their home communities. For the rehabilitation and reintegration of former combatants, agencies in Liberia face a funding shortfall of almost 60 million US dollars, leaving about 47,000 combatants outside the programme. As in so many other countries emerging from conflict, they are the most restive and violence-prone segment of the community, and pose a serious threat to peace.

The international community is making huge investments in Liberia and the other countries I mentioned. As Council members know well, the peacekeeping operation in Liberia alone has an annual budget of $820 million. But unless we also support the essential humanitarian and recovery activities that help people return, ex-combatants reintegrate, and give people hope for the future, these investments are at risk, and costs can quickly multiply. We have to start applying the bitter lessons we have learned, and make sure that all parts of the international community pursue a more comprehensive approach to these recurring challenges.

A very positive example has been the response of the international community, led by this Council, in Sierra Leone. Over the last three years close to 60,000 ex-combatants were disarmed, demobilized and offered reintegration opportunities. A secure environment throughout the country allowed essential public services to resume, rehabilitation to take place at the community level, and more than 500,000 refugees and IDPs to return. None of these achievements would have been possible without the Security Council's leadership, and the sustained engagement and support of regional partners and donors.

The same is true for the peace between North and South Sudan, which followed the historic Security Council meeting in Nairobi and years of intense international and regional mediation efforts. But we now have to gear up quickly, with the early support of donors, to make sure that we rise to the many humanitarian challenges that will result from the peace agreement. Again, helping millions to return and tens of thousands of combatants to reintegrate into society will be crucial to consolidate the peace in South Sudan.

Opportunities for Peace and "Humanitarian Dividends"

Mr. President,

Let me now turn to some other encouraging developments, particularly prospects for peace in two of the most intractable conflicts in Africa. The humanitarian dividends that result from a real prospect for a political settlement are almost always immediate and substantial, and can quite literally be measured in thousands of saved lives. Instead of running after increasing levels of need while we have less and less access, needs start stabilizing, levels of violence decrease, and humanitarian access starts opening up. The recent progress made in Northern Uganda is a case in point. Since I last briefed you about Northern Uganda in October, the security environment has improved thanks largely to the start of a dialogue between the Government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The level of violence is substantially lower that in the past two years, and the number of IDPs has fallen from 1.6 to 1.3 million people.

The ongoing efforts provide the best opportunity in more than a decade to bring the conflict to an end. ...

The United Nations stands ready to do its part. When I met with President Museveni in Kampala in early December, we agreed on an overall framework of assistance, to be led by the UN, if and when an agreement is reached with the LRA. The UN will continue to play the lead role in providing humanitarian assistance to the affected population in the north and planning for the possible return of IDPs, as well as organize and support reintegration efforts for child combatants and provide support for a reconciliation processes among various sectors of society in northern Uganda.

Somalia is the other long-standing and almost forgotten humanitarian emergency where we now have the best chance in many years to make real progress. Humanitarian indicators in many parts of Somalia are as bad as anywhere in Africa, as I could witness first-hand during my visit in early December. Mortality rates in some areas reach two per ten thousand per day and only one Somali child out of five is in school. Securing access is a daily struggle involving multiple negotiations with a variety of armed groups and clans. Despite all these constraints, it is remarkable what aid agencies have been able to achieve even with the limited funding available, as the Secretary-General has been reporting to you on a regular basis.

But I believe that the time is right for the international community to make a major coordinated push towards peace and stability in Somalia. We cannot afford to miss the opportunity presented by the formation of Transitional Federal Government (TFG), despite the daunting challenges it is facing and recent setbacks. Again, the potential humanitarian dividends are great if security and access are improved and even the most basic administration and essential services are restored, after 14 years without a central government.

I would strongly encourage the Security Council to continue and intensify its engagement with Somalia. The Council can help generate the kind of sustained and coordinated commitment of member states that we need to have a chance to succeed. While the AU and IGAD will be critical to this effort, they will need to work hand in hand with the Council, not least to attract the maximum level of financial and diplomatic support, particularly for the envisaged deployment of an AU peace support mission to Somalia. ...

Mr. President,

Allow me to conclude with two comments related to the Tsunami and the unprecedented speed and generosity of the international community's response, including dozens of governments and private contributions from hundreds of thousands of individuals around the world.

First, as I have been saying since the very beginning of this outpouring of assistance, we cannot allow any diversion of assistance away from other humanitarian emergencies. ...

Second, the response to the Tsunami has shown all of us what is possible when there is a will. I remember sitting in this very room last summer asking for five helicopters to help save thousands of lives in Darfur. In the end, we had to hire helicopters commercially as no member states were willing to provide them. After the Tsunami, I also appealed for helicopters and, within days, saw the deployment of several helicopters carriers. Likewise, never in the history of UN appeals have we been able to cover more than 70 percent of our requirements in less than one week. It took until well into the fall of last year to reach a similar level for Darfur, despite the international attention that crisis received.

Some may say that these situations are not comparable, and that we will never be able to marshal this kind of response for protracted armed conflicts in Africa. I believe that, at the very least, we must try our hardest, be innovative, and quickly build on what we have witnessed over the last four weeks. We owe that to the millions of civilians in the crises I have talked about this morning who are just as innocent, and need our help every bit as much as the millions affected by the Tsunami.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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