The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has published a great article about the different factors that have contributed to the severe hunger in east Africa that we launched an appeal for on Monday.
It’s worth reading in full, but I’ve picked out five practical steps from it that will help break the cycle of drought and suffering in the region:
1. Avoid the apathy trap that lingers around slow onset emergencies in the Horn. Recurrent crises have heightened the world’s tolerance of malnutrition and suffering in the region, but when a threshold is crossed, we must still be prepared to respond.
2. While saving lives will always be the first priority, an underlying focus of humanitarian response should be to protect people’s capacity for economic regeneration. This will mean looking for flexible ways to provide assistance that avoid people moving into settlements from which they may never leave.
3. Keep listening to aspirations that people have for their lives. There are big shifts going on in the Horn: from pastoralist to agriculture, from agriculture to urban. Assistance should complement capacities to make these shifts successfully.
4. Focus on keeping children in schools. Their future options and resilience will be forever shaped by whether or not they have an education.
5. Remember that there is always a risk that the humanitarian community will shield governments from healthy accountability by taking over emergency relief. The best protection against cycles of drought becoming humanitarian crises lies with accountable government, and our work must assist, and not undermine, that end.
Images © Feisal Omar / Reuters