TED Conversations

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

How can an individual help fight the current food crisis in East Africa?

The worst drought in 60 years puts 10 million East Africans at risk of starvation[1]. How can an individual best help fight this crisis? Is donating money to the World Food Program the quickest and most cost effective way an individual can help here? Or are there any other organisations that are better to donate to at this moment.

Would it help to try to get people to repost these two background stories [2], [3] and this link to the WFP donation page [4] on facebook, twitter, and blogs?

Share your thoughts.

[1] http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/07/08/east.africa.hunger/index.html?iref=allsearch
[2] http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/inpictures/2011/07/2011781567358646.html
[3] http://blogs.aljazeera.net/africa/2011/07/08/inside-worlds-biggest-refugee-camp
[4] https://www.wfp.org/donate/hoa_banners

Edit: A facebook page has been created to help spread awarness of the situation, "like" and "share" it:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Horn-of-Africa-food-crisis-2011/146663032074810?ref=ts

+6
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jul 15 2011: .
    If you are an ethical person, you should absolutely do nothing.

    If you help sustain the (food) "aid" industry, you are seeding death.

    Everybody with a bit of knowledge of African agriculture knew that this was going to happen. There were warnings 2 years ago, and governments and NGOs had pledged hundreds of millions. None of this materialised. Because it would have meant structural investments, and not "aid".

    The best action for an ordinary citizen is to boycott and act against the "aid industry".

    If you do *nothing*, and especially refrain from giving money to NGOs and International Aid Organisations, you will force the solution.

    And the solution is extremely well known and has been for decades: structural investments in agriculture in these countries (the entire chain, from seeds to warehouses and strategic food stocks).

    Agriculture and food politics can easily beat drought. If you do it well.

    The condition for success is to end the horrible food aid industry, which is responsible for global hunger and mass death.

    It may be cruel, but I prefer the death of tens of thousands of people now, if it means the saving of hundreds of millions later on. Let's boycott all Live Aid-like initiatives. In the name of humanity.
    • thumb
      Jul 15 2011: Thanks a lot for this comment. These are precisly the kind of questions I am interested in having a discussion about. I know you are involved in the agriculture business so I hope you have some more insight to share here.

      I do understand that aid is destructive to the incentives both farmers and governments have for creating a sustainable agriculture and infrastructure for distribution. And I do understand that aid very often can be destructive. My question in this specific situation though is if aid not is a good solution anyway. Regarding Kenya and Ethiopia I can understand if aid can be destructive even at this point, as they have governments and a population that possibly would be better of in the long run by handling this themself.

      However, for the people in Somalia I don't see why this would be so. Because as a country with little or no governance it can hardly be destructive to any nationwide planing. I can neither see how aid right now would be the most destructive thing to the incentives for people to sustain an agriculture in the future. When people are so hard pressed that they either need aid or have to flee to refugee camps to survive on aid there, it seems to me like aid is less destructive than a large group of displaced or dead people would be. Also, would it not for the sake of Kenya at least be a good idea to ensure that all Somalis that comes to Dadaab can survive on aid so that Kenya can concentrate on their own problems?

      What do you think?
      • thumb
        Jul 15 2011: No, aid is not good. Not even now. Because we know all too well that humanitarian arguments and "emergencies" are used to perpetuate the existing system.

        Only if the donors would pledge formally that "this is the last time we give to this perverse industry and from now on we'll only spend on structural investments", - then alright.

        But can you imagine a donor saying that?

        I am willing to compare the existing system with that of dictators who use the "state of emergency" to legitimize their heinous agendas.
        • thumb
          Jul 15 2011: How does that apply to Somalia? Isn't the experience of starvation and need to flee enough incentives for the people to keep working to improve the agriculture in the future. I can see that saving such people could be destructive to future government decissions, but that's not that much of a problem there. Right?

          Is there not a single organisation that is sane enough to be able to balance the need for emergency aid and the need to minimize damage to lasting solutions. I would at least hope the WFP could do that.
        • Jul 28 2011: Mr Rademakers, your argument that it's better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish is understandable, if you can suggest how we can best "teach them to fish", otherwise it's cruel to not give the fish. Long term help is better than short term help but but doing nothing looks suspiciously like no help at all.

          Does anyone know if there's a way to donate directly to the "food warehouse" project? Splitting our donations between that and immediate help could be the best course - both first aid in this crisis and prevention of subsequent ones.
        • Jul 29 2011: So after some digging, I found out a couple of things:
          1) Direct donations where you can know *for sure* that it gets *exactly* where you want are here:
          https://www.wfp.org/donate/fillthecup?icn=homepage-donate-cup&ici=small-button-link
          The "Designation" drop-down let's you chose between:
          "needed most" - they decide depending on current situation
          "emergencies" - generic relief fund
          "horn of Africa" - current crisis
          "school meals" - best long term project IMHO

          2 - long term solutions are in the Women's empowerment fund
          http://www.wfp.org/women4women
          There are 6 projects with varying price, reach, duration, robustness etc:
          - School meals in Bolivia - 4 millenium goals in 1 go: fights hunger, promotes universal education, gender equality and child health
          - Vocation training in Ethiopia - teaching how to earn money to buy existing food
          - Safe stoves in Sri Lanka - saves lives for just 5$ - biggest bang for buck ratio!
          - Safely setting up small businesses in Afghanistan - expensive but robust
          - Education on nutrition in Siera Leone - most expensive but self-perpetuating - teach one person and it can be passed on to the rest of society and down the generations
          - Food for pregnant and nursing women in Kenya - band-aid approach with the long term benefit of preventing mental stunting.
          Click on a picture to go to the donation form. There is no designation on the form so I'm not sure if this will go *exactly* where you wanted but it *wil*l go to the right fund. PayPal donations go "where it's needed most" by default. I'm not sure if this bypasses the specific choice and/or the women's empowerment fund. Use credit cards preferably.

          3 - Other long term projects like food warehouses are here:
          http://www.wfp.org/preventing-hunger.
          They seam good but sadly don't have an independent donation site. It's possible this falls under "greatest need" option form point 1 but I'm not sure.

          Will keep searching
        • thumb
          Jul 29 2011: Thanks a lot Maja. Keep up the good work!

          Here is an article that lists mayor aid organisations that are working in Somalia.
          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/10/how-to-help-somalia_n_894117.html
        • Jul 29 2011: It's nothing. Thanks for the article.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Jul 20 2011: What about emergencies like the current one? It can hardly be helpful to let a large fraction of a population die. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former prime minister of Nigeria, would probably agree as she says that aid used to save lives and build infrastructure is constructive.[1] It's not about giving aid to malnourished people in a country with malfunctioning governace and agriculture sector. It's about giving aid to people struck by drought partly brought about by climate change in a country without a proper government.

        [1] http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ngozi_okonjo_iweala_on_aid_versus_trade.html
      • Jul 28 2011: Vineet, I think just opposite. How can we late people suffered from endemic. We should provide some kinda help to support to those suffering.
      • thumb
        Jul 28 2011: Vineet, you are right that solving the underlying problem is most important. But I don't see that supporting WFP in this particular case goes against focusing on the long time targets as well. Have you watched todays TEDTalk by Josette Sheeran[1]? Food aid is not just about providing food to the poor.

        Regarding your note on drought and bad governance, I think it is a very good one. And I do very well understand that continued food aid gives governments incentives to continue to make bad decisions that results in quick economic gain at the expence of food insecurity. But when it comes to Somalia, I can't see food aid having that effect. To me it seems like food aid would have the opposite effect there. I can't imagine that countering massive death, loss of livestock, and large amounts of displaced persons would have less impact on establishing future stability than what giving no aid in order to avoid destroying incentives would have.

        In general I agree with you, and I think NGOs has to concider what you say very seriously. But I can't see that it applies in this particualar situation to the degree that giving aid is a bad solution.

        Regarding laziness. I don't think the amount of work that goes into anything should matter, only the impact. If a lazy solution is the best response at the moment, then let it be so. If not, then look for something else. Moreover, lazy steps can be taken in paralell with things that require more effort.

        [1] http://www.ted.com/talks/josette_sheeran_ending_hunger_now.html
    • Jul 21 2011: I was kinda confused when I first started reading your reply... So, are you saying that giving money to AID organizations simply creates a pocketbook for emergencies, rather than creating a solution to the problem? And that the business of aid generates too much revenue to drop, and actually do what has to be done? I'm not quite sure I understand. Sorry :S
    • thumb
      Jul 22 2011: Damn. That's cold.

      At the same time, perfectly reasonable and acceptable. Infrastructure to support societies is necessary for societies to function well. If the countries facing food issues have no infrastructure to feed their people, they need to be forced into creating that infrastructure, whatever the cost.

      I don't think that having no aid programs at all is wise either, though. When legitimate emergencies occur, aid is required and appropriate at that time.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.