Famine Crisis-Poor response by Governments worldwide

Both Western and African goverments accused of a stuttering response to crisis by Oxfam

Individual donors in Kenya and South Africa have responded with unprecedented generosity to the food crisis in East Africa. Their response has not been matched by those of African governments or some Western nations, according to a critical report.

Mr Irungu Houghton, Oxfam’s pan-Africa director, said that an appeal by a South African mobile telephone network raised more in text message donations in three days than the country’s government had given in three weeks, while "Kenyans for Kenya", launched a week ago, has raised more than £60,000- on average an amazing £3 per pledge per person from the public.

What African governments had offered was “woefully short and inadequate”, considering that this was “a defining moment for Africa’s ability to help itself,” said Mr Houghton.

“This is a much bigger crisis than Ethiopia in 1984,” he said. “Yet we are seeing the leaders who do not fail to cry ‘African solutions for African problems’ when it comes to peacekeeping or conflict mediation now completely failing when it comes to a response to the biggest crisis in a generation.”

Oxfam says both the international community and the African Union are “failing to keep pace with a crisis that is spiralling out of control,” by failing to take on board the extent of the food crisis or by providing the necessary financial assistance.

“Governments and donors must act with greater urgency in the face of a deteriorating crisis and rising needs in East Africa,” a statement from the UK-based NGO said.

“Donors must move beyond promises and immediately turn money pledged into action on the ground, as more than half a million people are at risk of starvation.”

The UN estimates that the total number of people in need of support could rise up by 25 per cent and surpass 15 million soon if urgent action on all fronts is not taken, such as providing emergency food, water and shelter.

Generous pledges

Despite generous pledges of money from some rich governments and donors, their generosity is failing to keep pace with the level of need.

However some Western governments, notably Italy, have given little or nothing.

Aid agencies say that as the crisis deteriorates, the amount of money needed goes up.

Last week, the UN increased its appeals for Somalia and Kenya by $600 million, bringing the funding shortfall to $1.47 billion.