Sun, Mar 12, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Deadly famine looms while the world watches

South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are on the brink of catastrophe, thanks to conflict, drought and a shocking failure in the international response

By Kevin Watkins  /  The Guardian

Much of that support should be delivered in cash. Putting money in the hands of vulnerable people is far more cost-effective than delivering food. Cash transfer programs in Somalia, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria are already protecting vulnerable people — and these programs could be scaled-up rapidly.

Of course, money is not the only missing link. The politics of famine has to be put at the center of the international response. Apart from being a breach of the Geneva convention, it is ethically indefensible for Saudi Arabia to obstruct humanitarian aid and bomb the ports, roads and bridges needed to deliver famine relief. It is surely time for the UK to exert its “soft-power” influence with Saudi Arabia on behalf of Yemeni children, if necessary backed by an arms embargo and sanctions.

One age-old lesson evident in the current crisis it is that famine prevention is better than cure. Last year’s El Nino drought in Ethiopia was one the worst since the mid-1980s, yet the country avoided a social disaster. In part, it did so because aid has been used to finance the expansions of rural health and nutrition clinics, support a safety net program reaching 2.2 million people in the worst-affected areas and provide relief to pastoralist communities to minimize livestock losses.

The aid cynics attacking the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 percent of the nation’s income on development assistance should take note. One of the most effective ways of saving lives is to support the efforts of poor people to build more resilient livelihoods.

Britain’s aid represents a small investment with a high return in combating the poverty and building the resilience needed to prevent famine. Cutting it would hurt vulnerable people, make future famines more likely and diminish the UK’s standing as a global force for good.

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