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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.


Edit: A facebook page has been created to help spread awarness of the situation, "like" and "share" it:

  • Jul 30 2011: I am originally from Ethiopia and I can tell you that food aid has been a big failure. Excess food dumped onto the local market has wiped out local farmers and swelled the ranks of those that are perpetually dependent on aid. A more sensible solution would have been to use funds to purchase food locally from farmers in non-drought areas. Also aid has had the effect of supporting governments that are corrupt, brutal, and inefficient and that are the primary causes of food insecurity to begin with. In the case of Ethiopia, under better management the country is well capable of not only feeding itself but exporting food. However the current government (which seized power by force 20 years ago from another government that also seized power by force) shows zero interest in building the capacity of the people and country to feed themselves. Instead they steal/waste hundred of millions of dollars of US/European aid every year (almost 1 billion a year to Ethiopia alone) then beg for more. The best way to help as an individual is to lobby your governments against sending foreign aid to corrupt governments in Africa and propping them up for decades with no accountability. Significant progress is not possible while corrupt and brutal governments have a stranglehold on entire populations. My 2 cents worth!
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      Jul 30 2011: Thanks a lot for your reply Maya!

      Many of the contributors to this thread has been reluctant to support aid for the reasons that you mention here. My question is, does this also mean that aid is a bad solution for the current situation? The WFP and many other aid organisations are operating on the ground, and the money does not go through the governments in this case. Right? Would you also like to give a reply to Chris comment[1]. You both seem to describe the same problems but propose different solutions, so I really think that a discussion between both of you could reveal many interesting things to the rest of us who participate in this conversation.

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    Jul 23 2011: Maybe what I'm going to say may sound a little harsh,...

    I do think war economies and donation-based economies are a mayor contributor to the perpetual hunger in parts of Africa.

    If those countries get food each time there is a war, then they will start a war to get food.
    If governments get money from other countries, and not from their own people, they will be nice to the other countries and not to their own people.

    I agree that we need to help when dire need is present, but we need to realize that it only adds to the problem in the long term.
    Only when revenues of the rulers comes from prosperity of the people, there will be food en no more hunger.

    So: stop giving money and aid! (maybe not today, but when are you going to say "this was the last time we helped you out".
    I know the problem is more complicated than that, and our governments do play a crucial role in this process.
    But we overcame our hunger and poverty ourselves, and not being dependent on others (maybe by trade, but that is not the issue).

    Believe in the strength of African nations and peoples, and help them to end the wars, improve trade, and give them apt technology that doesn't require dependent maintenance.
    Encourage their creativity and that working together (as clan, groups, communities) for a better future for their children is possible.

    As for the world-food distribution problem: we do need a global structure and authority that can mediate between countries to make better decisions. More rules? Sadly yes.
    A country has no right to abuse and violate another country. Not by trade, brain-drain, agriculture or resources.
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      Jul 23 2011: Yes, aid that perpetuates aid dependence seems to be a very bad idea. Food aid seems to be such an aid and in general I do agree with you. Phasing out food aid seems to be a goal worth striving for, but I do not see how it would be very good in this case. I can see that Kenya and Ethiopia still may be better of with minimal aid because it could push the people and the government to the limit and make them improve their food security. The same probably goes for the less severly affected countries Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda, but I can't see how it applies in Somalia.

      The people of Somalia are already caught in the fights between the government and Al-Shabaab. And I can only imagine that difficult living conditions rises the insentives for people to join the conflict. Because of the weak governace of Somalia I can't see that food aid would interfere with the governments actions to create better conditions for food security. I can see that it can lower the insentives for people to keep farming, but to me it seems like the risk for this is dwarfed by the damage that the famine itself creates. Dead and heavily malnurished people, dead livestock, scattered families, and massive amounts of displaced people seems to make much more damage to any future farming than any loss of insentives would do. So to me it seems like food aid at least is a good idea for the famine declared regions of Somalia. Not only because of it's humanitarian appeal, but also because it seems less destructive to a future sustainable agriculture than avoiding to give food aid does.
      • Jul 29 2011: That article you linked to had link to a different one, which might explain why things are so bad:

        Basically it says that the most affected region - the south of Somalia - is a failed state propped up by UN. It's lead by a "transitional government" that can't govern anything outside the capital of Mogadishu and which failed to transition into anything in the last 20years.
        Meanwhile a renegade non-entity known as Somaliland has a functioning democracy and is even jailing pirates.

        To sum it up, the long term solution may be to declare Somaliland a UN nation, as was recently done to Southern Sudan, but that's a whole other issue with a completely different set of obstacles.
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    Jul 30 2011: Everyone says "send money, send food." Sure, we as prosperous nations need to do our part in giving the people of Africa resources so they can survive. The real issue is one of knowledge. We need to help the people of Africa learn how to irrigate, grow crops, plant tree's, build wells and have access to basic knowledge (reading, writing, arithmatic). I have seen firsthand what happens when you arm a child from Africa with knowlege and infect them with hope. The greatest gift we can all give Africa are teachers, study materials and a foundation of understanding. Doing this would turn Africa from a place of famine to a place of prosperity. It is possible if "we" address the real problem.
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    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.
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      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?
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        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.
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          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:

          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

          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:

          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
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          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.

        • Jul 29 2011: It's nothing. Thanks for the article.
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        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.

      • 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.
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        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.

    • 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
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      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.
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    Aug 10 2011: we raised $80 000 at our local mosque :) and it all started with just a couple minutes of awareness for less than a week! I think if people know about the cause they will learn to care and to give! So all it takes is awareness!
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      Aug 10 2011: Wow, that's amazing! I agree with you. I think most people are empathic and want to help if they just understand that their help is needed.
  • Jul 16 2011: Easy. It only takes money and determination. I do not mean giving to aid organizations. They have tried for decades to stamp out hunger. With the money and resources at their disposition and this is the result? Okay so what is the solution.

    1. Get the government to give land to an organization for a hundred years. (doesn't even have to be good land so long as there is a source of water nearby. even the ocean is okay)

    2. Get guards to secure the perimeter. (people in poor countries will steal anything not even if it is bolted down)

    3. Install a solar power plant. (A cheap one of course. Let the workers manually scrub the the salt out of the boilers. Salt can be sold.)

    4. Bring shiploads of treated sewage solid wastes and dump it on the barren ground. Cover with whatever organic wastes you can get. Till and plow. Use animals and local people for labor.

    5. Plant Gm crops and use drip irrigation using water from the solar power plant. Sell the electricity as needed.

    6. Use green houses if wind is too strong or plant buffer trees.

    7. Sell 50% of crops to developed nations. The rest is divided between the workers and the animals. Payment of money is only given at the beginning. The workers will eat some and sell the rest to the local economy.

    8. Same with water. 50% of drinking water will sold to the workers at reduced prices. They will then sell it at a markup price in the local markets. The rest will be stored for use by the power plant and to irrigate adjacent land to grow a forest.

    9. Once the farm is up and running, build a small village for the farmers and guards. It must include a school and a market place. People from outside the village will come to trade at the market. Products sold will be taxed by the government.

    10. At no time must the government have a hand in managing the community. Corruption will just gut the project. The government must only have access to the taxes.

    11. Once the community is self sufficient, Rinse and repeat.
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      Jul 17 2011: Yes, building sustainable solutions are the way to go. But the current conversation is about how to provide emergency help without destroying investment in a sustainable future. Also, does this solution not sound a bit Utopian?
      • Jul 17 2011: Of course it is. Utopia is the place with no hunger. Will it work? Maybe. Has somebody tried it? Not to my knowledge. Look i am not saying this is the answer to everything. If u want a simple way to help them then just load up a plane with food and dump it close to the people wandering the desert. That will fix the problem but it is both expensive and does not solve the key problem. People starve because they can't grow food. They can't grow food because there is no water. So logically the only way to fix this, apart from dumping food, is provide a sustainable, secure source of water and food. Can you tell me a better way?
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    Aug 10 2011: Exactly! A lot of people have this notion that the world is cold and that everyone just thinks for themselves. But I don't think that's true, instead they are as you said emphatic! People just don't know.
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    Aug 1 2011: The company I work for, Voice123, has been witnessing similar efforts done by voice over talent running a social media campaign and creating videos to assist. You can see their facebook page here:

    You can contact the person, Josef Israel, who is running this at this page:

    Myself and our company is also working to get involved.
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    Jul 30 2011: I think donating money is the fastest solution but it has acute changes not for so long
    we need to make them productive people to help the problem of hunger and immigration too

    i think that could be done by making companies that provide small projects for the people they can work

    these companies can be made by donation so we donate not only for the world food program but also for making small companies invest in these countries to make the people can feed them selves
    OR donating to the world largest companies for building huge effective projects like Dams ,Land Reclamation,Ports for trading in other words making areal country that can feed itself

    and that will be done not by the governments but by good people because goverments are slow

    sorry for my english iam egyptian :)
  • Jul 29 2011: Interestingly, none Africans suggesting solutions to problems they don't understand, so let's start there. The issues of hunger, inferior healthcare, education etc in Africa stem from broken government systems. Most African countries are plagued with poor infrastructure / amenities that are critical in efficient trade, education, and all essential functions of a sustainable society. The people you see on TV, especially kids are purely victims of a broken system. Chances are, you wouldn't be in any better shape if you were born in such conditions of dire poverty, so let's not draw swords and claim it's wiser to let 'them' learn by dying out of hunger. This could be you. If we can keep this simple human element in our quest for solutions, we'll stay on track.
    How do we help them , armed with a better understanding of the history/ nature of these issues? Well, for those who still have compassion, we have to take time and research. I find that smaller NGO groups are more reliable. Look up by country, then by town. Ask your african co workers, friends, etc about how we send help down to our villages. We are everywhere in the world. If you really want to help, please grease up your compassion elbows and look a little further. technology is a great tool to create awareness too. Thanks all for showing concern over our continent of Africa.
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      Jul 29 2011: Thank you very much for trying to explain the background Chris! Would you like to expand on it, maybe you can link to some background material?
    • Aug 1 2011: Chris, I do agree very much (see my previous comment) that the root cause of poverty in Africa is bad governance. It is inexcusable that a continent with so much natural resource could be so poor. As an Ethiopian I know that the country has an incredible amount of water resource (80% of the water Egypt gets comes directly from Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile). However we have been cursed with the most brutal, corrupt and inefficient governments, including the current one. No amount of foreign aid will fix that country as long as we have the current mafia style thugs in power. Of course you can not watch people starve. In the short term I do absolutely support providing food aid directly to the affected people, and if WFP can deliver aid directly to the people then it should be supported as SHORT-TERM relief. However a line needs to be drawn in the sand that starting NOW, there will be zero tolerance for corrupt and brutal dictatorship and this is where the real work is and where the focus should be. Compassionate people in the West can do the most good by working with their local elected officials to put a stop to hundreds of millions of dollars that are sent with no accountability to these petty dictators that abuse their own people. US and European tax payer money has kept the current unelected (they won 99.6% of the votes in the last "election") dictator in power for 20 years and he is destroying the country. In return he pledges his support on the "War Against Terror" and in the meantime he is destroying a nation of 80 million. I think friends in the West are more effective lobbying their governments against such aid than in seeking out and helping villages in Africa. Africans themselves (both in Africa and living in the West) should be doing the work to organize themselves to find and help such villages
      • Aug 1 2011: I especially underscore the significance of what I call a form of post-colonialism ie developed governments continue to collaborate with these dictator style African presidents and leaders in the name of maintaining 'world peace' which in a large way perpetuates the issues they turn around and spend billions of tax payer dollars to curb. If a zero tolerance policy was adopted by the West, these corrupt, inefficient leaders would not last as long.
        This 'silent' support to corrupt African leaders must stop in order for the root of these symptoms we are fighting to be truly eradicated. I am not convinced that this post colonialism is an unknown problem. It is very well structured and an intentional strategy by developed governments , only adding to the complexity of these issues.
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          Aug 3 2011: Which African countries do you reffer to? Which countries need to be put much more preassure on, and how?
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        Aug 3 2011: Do you have any idea about how corruption could be countered? If I remember correctly I once read or listened to Paul Collier who described an effective policy once applied in Uganda. The minister of education decided to counter corruption by anouncing in the local news papers how much money each school would get. This meant that the middle hands not could get away with taking some of the money for themself. Do you have any similar proposals for how corruption could be countered?
      • Aug 10 2011: what about people putting names of corrupt officials and their actions on twitter? Since the problem is the governments, perhaps there arent that many like that minister of education.
        THe more transparency the better
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          Aug 10 2011: This may be a good idea. I am a little concerned that innocent people easily could be targeted just because of suspicions though. But it's an idea worth thinking of.
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    Jul 28 2011: Oh, I didn't realize you meant "per unit of" by the slash. ooops.

    Anyway, I've looked it up, and there was this website called "disaster center." Though I did not look closely into the contents, my first impression was that the website was too poorly presented (with pieces of information scattered about, links to a variety of websites without any sort of description, etc). If there was an organization that worked to promote some sort of cooperation between the many, many NGOs, perhaps it could bring a greater impact. I should research more about that.

    Besides, it's really a pity that many people are still reluctant, (or simply indifferent) to spread the words through social media. I hope through you and this discussion and the many people commenting and talking about the issue, that there will be a growing number of people willing to participate in helping out with the situation.

    Btw, thanks for the elaborate answers. :-)
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      Jul 28 2011: I took a look at the website too. It sure wasn't pretty, and it is important that information is presented in an accesible format. I think this is a big problem for many small NGOs in general. A lot of people with good intentions but without proper understanding of how to promote the cause. A few people with proper knowledge about advertisement and media could go a long way. It would be great with a video like this[1] that explains the current situation in less than a minute, and which drags the viewer into the cause. Would be great material to post.

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    Jul 27 2011: Although I think that donating money to WFP and other organizations is one direct way to help the situation, I also believe it's the laziest way of helping. And I would like to make a note that the food crisis in East Africa, or any other parts of the world for that matter, is not just something happening now, but something that's been there for decades. Each of us should feel more obliged to participate in the long-term recovery of famished countries, and continue to pay attention.

    I definitely agree with Kristofer's way of raising awareness, which i think is the best indirect help we can give. And Christophe's idea of joining an organization to help with the office work sounds very appealing as well. For all of the students who are still on vacation at the moment, including me, we should seek to provide help at any NGOs nearby and do what we can to help.
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      Jul 28 2011: The solutions I am looking for here actually are those that are the laziest (most impact/effort). A motivated individual can sure do a lot more than just donating money or rising awarness, especially for the long term solutions. But I am looking for answers to the questions about what can be done to also motivate the public to respond just like they did when the earthquakes struck in Haiti or Japan. If that comes along with more awareness that also makes a fraction of the public more interested in the long term solutions, that is a very good thing!
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        Jul 28 2011: Hm. I'm not so sure I agree that the laziest solutions require the most effort. In fact, I'm rather confused. Can you clarify?

        On the other hand, I certainly concur that a motivated individual can do a lot to help. I also think there are degrees of raising awareness. The best way, I think, is when you can raise awareness and funds together. And you could go further to create your own small organization to set up a fund raiser which would, in one way or the other, spread awareness.

        I'm just wondering, is there a website solely dedicated to raising awareness on the disasters around the world? A website that can link different organizations together, share information, and give clear guidance to those motivated individuals on what they can do? I think that could be very useful.
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          Jul 28 2011: I didn't mean most effort, but most impact per unit of effort. In other words, laziest as in least work.

          I just watched a video[1] from the WFP and they very much agree wtih your points. Their advices were to donate (on a regular basis), rise awarness, and organise a fundriser.

          Such a website would certainly be a good idea. But then again, social media can equaly well be used for that purpose. Especially as it then also is possible to easily spread the word to friends and it hopefully can propagate a few steps away, ideally go viral (if say only 2-3% of facebooks users were willing to reshare information about mayor emergency situations, it would go viral and reach virtually every users news feed). I don't know of any central webpage for disasters, but Ushahidi[2] is a platform that has been developed as a response to emergency situations and has been used several times.

  • Jul 26 2011: If you want to help spreading awareness of the situation in other countries, you can translate the Facebook page in another language with appropriate links !
    There is the French Facebook page :

    To my mind, combining emergency solutions with sustainable ones are the best thing to do. Of course, keeping giving aid will not help them in a long-term but we cannot ignore hundreds of people dying every day. The sustainable solution has to come along with the emergency solution.
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    Jul 26 2011: Why fight it ?? Stabilise it....
    Exploitation, deforestation, degradation & division of caste & color embedded by conglomerates cannot be undone.
    So stabilising the basic needs of sustenance just stems from making them aware of their livelihood issues & we as responsible humans, stop exploiting poor nations to extremities.
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      Jul 26 2011: Yes, very true and defenitely long term goals. But what response to the current emergency does best fit into that bigger picture?
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        Jul 26 2011: Emergent requirement as of today is that we have rejuvenate the feeling of oneness amongst the local population & involve the natural resources of the subterranian deposits that which is in abundance, to give them a chance to govern their own livelihood & along with them explore the new possibilities of the food chains that can be harnessed, so that the dependency on outside aid is reduced. Herbal medicine promotion will give a boost to self sustenance also. List is endless Kristofer, its just the drive in the proper gear thats missing.
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          Jul 26 2011: Yes, I don't mean that the actions you propose not has to be taken right now. But we have to be able to multitask, right? I cannot see what apart from aid that will help to counter the famine that is declared in parts of Somalia. Restricting aid and creating conditions where sustainable solutions can thrive should be of highest priority in the overall strategy, and when providing emergency aid the damage it creates has to be taken into accout.
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        Jul 27 2011: The problem Kristofer begins at the very outset of your question itself...... Like do we donate money or any organisation...which again is running on money.
        The very word MONEY distorts the entire fabric of aid, though most essential if applied with dedication, & then it kind of becomes more like 'AIDS', a disease spreading more drought of dysfunctionalities.
        You have a heart that reaches out to this catastrophe & hence you have the drive. Couple this drive of your heart with your mind & probably you will see a 1 man solution with more clarity.
        Power on Kristofer. The world needs more men like you.
        Maybe like Christ Offer(Kristofer).
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          Jul 28 2011: Yes, the larger picture is very important to keep in mind, and hopefully the crisis can have the effect that it makes people aware of the need for long lasting solutions. My hope is that the current situation can help make many people to become aware of the problems as well as the underlying reasons, and encourage people to devote their lifes to different long lasting solutions. Also, the individual in my question was not so much me, but rather people in general, and it was about the particular situation right now. As for myself, I will keep trying to suck up information from people with much better knowledge about the problem than I have to get a better picture of the underlying reasons.
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    Jul 26 2011: I think the WFP might be the best choice... I've found no better alternatives and see no better suggestions here... The WFP seem to think both short and long term and have a huge established origination...

    Edit: for anyone that hasn't yet checked it, visit:
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    Jul 15 2011: Hi Kristofer, (It always feels weird too write to you in English but I want it to be understandable for all...)

    Have you checked ?
    There ought to be some projects there....
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      Jul 15 2011: Haha, yes it's better to keep it in english. :)

      Thanks for the link, but I don't see ONE having any direct action related to this. It would be nice to have a collection of links to all organisations that are involved and do accept donations.
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        Jul 15 2011: To be honest I didn't check ONE before giving you the link, I just assumed... You should create a new conversation about where the best place to donate money for specific projects are...
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    Jul 12 2011: To put things in perspective, here are some numbers relating to causaltities in conflicts, diseases and disasters.

    Afghan civil war : 600 000-2 000 000 causalities.[1]
    War in Iraq: 100 000-1 500 000 causalities.[1]
    Darfur: 300 000-330 000 causalities, 450 000-2 850 000 displaced.[2]
    HIV/AIDS: 2 100 000 causalities in the year 2009.[3]
    Tuberculosis: 1 800 000 causalities in the year 2007.[4]
    Malaria: 780 000 causalities per year in 2010.[5]
    Earthquake in Haiti: 46 000-316 000 causalities. [6]

    In some of the above conflicts it is very difficult to decide what the right thing to do is, still they attract tremendous attention. At the same time the diseases are among the most deadly but not completely trivial to solve. However, now we have a draught where a large region lacks food and which affects so many people that it dwarfes any of the above problems even when causalities are accumulated over many years. There also is a simple and hardly controversial solution: Give the organisations that handles this tradgedy purchasing power to import and distribute food where it is needed. There is no lack of food on a global scale, it's just that it don't is where it needs to be at the moment. I think this issue deserves all the attention it can ever get.

    More news sources:
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    Aug 11 2011: Here's a Phoenician proverb:

    "One hand will never be able to clap alone."
  • Aug 7 2011: i would love to give a comprehensive reply to your question but none captures it better than Dembisa Moyo in her book DEAD AID........

    AID has never worked and will never work.I am a resident of Kenya in east africa and i can concretely and for the life of me say that the short term solution of western AID is only a systemic continuance to an age old problem.

    Its a proven fact that 80% of AID is used in logistics.This means that only 20%reaches the needy and even this 20% is susceptible to corrupt government officials.In simple language the AID given is not for the needy but the logistics peole in between in this case NGO's and CBO's.

    Lets not bury our heads in the sand;the problem isnt food security but mental security;the solution to this is to change the paradigm of the affected people through re-educating them using different vehicles.Chief of this is the educational sector.Sort the way people think and their lives are sorted for good.

    Like someone had previously commented the people most likely to identify with the problem are the people on the ground and it is they that are supposed to take responsibility for their lives and provide lifelong solutions.

    And one more thing.........the pictures that do the rounds in the media are doctored and anaesthically doctored to reach and torment the good graces of donors so that they dont reach for pocket change but for the checkbook for the swiss account
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      Aug 10 2011: Thanks for your replay. I do understand that AID can be very counterproductive, but is there not a limit to when AID becomes a force for good. Like for the current situation? I would really hope that the current fundrising can come in parallell with information that allows for greater awareness of the disruptive sides of AID. But it doesn't mean that the very act of rising funds for this specific cause is a negative thing. Or what do you think?
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    Aug 7 2011: You might want to check this!
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      Aug 10 2011: Thanks, I am glad to see that there are many people that are working on give the situation attention now!
  • Aug 2 2011: One of the most interesting articles about food supply that I've read is, "The Food Bubble: how wall street starved millions and got away with it" by Frederick Kaufman. The basic message is that deregulation in the commodities markets has allowed firms like Goldman Sachs to make millions by inflating the price of food, which pushed some 250 million people into hunger. Financial regulation might not lend immediate relief to the hungry, but the ideas were news to me, I thought they might contribute to the conversation...

    Video of the author discussing the ideas in the article,

    The article itself:
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      Aug 10 2011: Thanks a lot, this was really interesting. I liked the idea about the grain reserve. Maybe it could even be private if it was regulated so that grain reserves had to sell whenever the price rose above a certain limit.
  • Jul 30 2011: I agree that trying to educate someone with insufficient nutrition will be difficult, but not impossible. We are not talking about teaching someone who is malnourish brain surgery. Education itself will not solve the problem it will help to some extent. The problem goes beyond nutrition and education.
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      Jul 30 2011: I fully agree that education is important, if you check WFP website you'll find that they are working both short and long term in many different ways to solve the problem of hunger.
  • Jul 30 2011: I feel that the only way as Daren express is education. Money and food are a one day solution and only for the fortunate that are able to "benefit" from it. What about tomorrow? I If the right tools and skills are provide up to certain degree the people can be help, but it is more than that. In order to help the political/government aspect needs to be taken into consideration among other factors.
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      Jul 30 2011: And as I said to Daren "Have you seen the related Talk?", if you have you'll find that educating people that haven't had sufficient nutrition when growing up will be quite difficult!
  • Jul 29 2011: people don't have money to donate...simple. There is another way to get money from them though, they haven't money to give but they have time to give. I need a philanthropist investor with about $400,000 to sign an NDA and I will provide the solution. I know how it can be done and who can develop what needs to be developed. I'm only the guy who has the recipe for the cake, I know where to get the ingredients and the best chefs to create and deliver. Unfortunately the concept isn't protected something that needs to be done first thats not me requesting this but the chefs!
  • Jul 28 2011: no matter which way we go to support African people, whether through INGO or NGO or donating. It should have positive impact on them.
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      Jul 28 2011: Yes, that should defenitely be the goal. Otherwise it's not support. :)
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    Jul 28 2011: Well kristofer, You can check up on multinationals like Purup or Siemens, who have crisis management cells along with CSR. In short its the money that gets ploughed in for such disasters along with their manpower & management getting involved of that specific region, or the region nearest to it.
    So at least a temporary but immidiate help is at hand & gives some time to take up proper solutions in time.
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      Jul 28 2011: It's great when large companies take responsibility for their surroundings. I hope we will see more and more of that in the future!
  • Jul 26 2011: the crisis (in my opinion) could start to be countered by more research being done on custom genetically engineered seeds,specifically designed for the individual enviroment that they exsposed to.when i grew up in west texas,i was aware at an early age that special cotton seeds were required to best suit the enviroment in the dry,hot,climate,and i was aware of some of the different types,such as ones that were geared to disease resistance,drought resistance,pest resistance ect.From my understanding at the time there was not an all in one seed(you had to sacrifice one trait for another).If custom genetically engineered seeds were tailored to the enviroment in east africa and were properly balanced with drought tolerance,salt water tolerance and size(amount of produce produced) then given or sold at a reasonable price then i believe in my own opinion that that could help fight the current food crisis.just my own opinion and that makes it neither right nor wrong in my opinion.Thanks for everybodies time and have a great night/day and take care.
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      Jul 28 2011: Yes, this is one of the options that has to be taken serious to find a long term solution to the problem. I don't know how much progress there is along these lines, but I read this[1] article about bananas in Uganda which seems to indicate that there is at least some.

      This conversation was however intended to focus on the current emergency situation. (But of course within the larger framework of long lasting solutions.)

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    Jul 26 2011: it's accumulation processes over a long period of time
    at the current time, nothing can fix this, but donations
    I think we can send donations privately (businessmen and large corporations) instantly

    though, I don't understand how this thing happen
    actually, I grew up with this problem happening almost every year...... and the interesting thing is there were no solutions whatsoever over a period of almost 20 years, there is something I don't understand
    these people are in tribes as far as I know, they live in deserts, then their main life is about searching for food sources, they don't find it in one place they move to another
    but why to stay in one place that does not have food and/or water at all and not to move
    these places don't have infrastructure whatsoever, why do people like to keep being there?
    this suggestion was not introduced!, simply "move", just move from that place
    you see donations of millions and millions of dollars almost every year, where do these payments god then?
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      Jul 26 2011: Yes I agree. Do you have any idea about what else than sending donations an individual can do. Spreading the word for example. And how?
  • Jul 26 2011: I propose we talk about it a lot on a TED thread, but not really do much about it in reality. That seems to be the general solution to all problems on these threads.
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      Jul 26 2011: Well, why not break the pattern. :)

      Don't underestimate the value of "just" having a discussion around a topic though. Hopefully it makes people better informed when they make future decisions. And you never know if people takes the advices into their daily life where they make a difference that not is seen on the particular internet community where it is discussed.

      As a programmer I know that a lot of good discussions between people on the internet can be helpful to an outsider a long time after. I have many times with a single search on Google benefited tremendously from discussions people have had about similar code related issues as I face. Those people will never know it, but they have repeatedly helped me to think through many problems. I hope the same can be true for anyone that runs across any discussion here on TED.
      • Jul 27 2011: Well, no doubt I too enjoy discussion, my only concern is that it may not be doing much for those in Africa. I notice that these days in America we hear a lot of talk about "saving Africa" or "going green," and I can't help but notice that often the ones who are suggesting these ideas are the rich who have enough free time to start feeling a bit guilty about their lifestyle, and want to "reach out." I think an extreme case is Angelina Jolie. The problem I see is that many of these people only want to make superficial efforts and sacrifices in order to achieve their goal, and will take a day off at the spa tomorrow.

        I think your question is interesting because it asks how can an "individual" help. I think in modern times one of the major problems facing our global society is scale. Relative to the influence of large scale governments, individuals have very little influence in world events. Things have grown to such a scale that most individuals feel powerless. I know there are a lot of people with fight still left in them, and then the question does become what can you do as an individual. To be honest I don't know enough about the African situation to suggest a specific solution, but as with anything, if you want it, you must work for it, tirelessly, relentlessly, and selflessly.

        In my own life, I have tried to break the pattern. I quit a secure well paying job as a consultant in architectural engineering because I felt that I was only helping to perpetuate the wasteful and toxic practices of modern construction and manufacturing. I have since started to rehab older homes in the city with more traditional "green" solutions, such as milk paint instead of normal paint (which is toxic plastic), natural woods stains, lime mortars, etc. I get a lot of used materials from dumpsters, old buildings that are being torn down, etc. I haven't figured it all out yet, but at least now I have a direction to go in. I wish you well in finding your direction.
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          Jul 28 2011: Yes, I am much aware of this and is a bit frustrated myself each time I see the disconnect between what we talk about, how we live our lifes, and what we try to achive. "Being green" and "saving africa" talk often seems to be nothing other than looking a little better than the neighbour, and often blaming the goverment and large corporations seems to be a simple way to slip away from the personal responsibility. But then again, it doesn't help to be frustrated that no one really cares and making that yet another reason to do nothing. I am glad you found an occupation that makes you feel that you contribute to something that has a purpose, I think that is so much more important than all the things money can buy once you have got above the level where it is possible to sustain a living!
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    Jul 26 2011: Are there things we can do that involve giving time rather than money?

    As a student I cannot set up a direct debit.. what else can I do?
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      Jul 26 2011: You can ask an aid organisation if they have some work to be done? (copy-writing, office work, publicity,...)
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      Jul 26 2011: Spread the word, through an organisations or in private. If you have to exclusively choose between making a donation, or spreading the word to two persons that in turn will make the same donation. The second alternative is the better one.
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        Jul 28 2011: Unless everybody tries to do the second alternative... in which case we have a classical negative sum game.

        The optimal choice for the group is to make the donation (provided the donation actually improves the situation)
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          Jul 28 2011: Notice the requirement that you have to spread to two persons that actually do donate. I didn't intend to say that donating isn't important, donations are the very reason to spread the word in the first place. I just tried to make clear that there is real value in rising awareness too.

          I am now quite convinced that donations are a good thing in this case. I also don't think that you do much difference as an individual if you stop donating money to aid organisations. I think it's better to keep supporting at least organisations such as WFP monetarily, while urging them to handle aid responsibly.
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      Jul 27 2011: Spreading awareness, as Kristofer says, is something you can choose to do with anything that you wish to support Adam! (Just saying)
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      Jul 27 2011: You may find this page useful when trying to figure out how to help.
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      Jul 29 2011: I found this through WFP's Twitter, You'll be able to donate a bowl of rice very fast (30-60sec) just by doing word games...
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    Jul 25 2011: Stop aid imports of food supplies in place of ennobling farmers and artisans with microcredit, education, and other incentives so they can subsist as much as possible on their own. I would also like to see that amazing solar project launch in the Sahara, which could power the whole continent. Oh, and desertification of all necessary land in order to make it arable again.
    Individuals as defined as so (isolated) can do nothing.
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      Jul 25 2011: A goal worth striving for, but I doubt it is the answer to the current emergency. If you read some of the other comments I think you will understand that I do understand that phasing out food aid is important. But in the face of extreme conditions, such as the current ones in Somalia, I can't see that an immediate ban on food aid would be the better choise.
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        Jul 25 2011: It is the only answer because it proposes a sustainable solution. I never proclaimed we ban the aid of food and water. I simply stated we phase it out or not use it in place of the other. I am interested in cures not treatments. I would like to talk about transitional approaches to the paradigm shift that I think we both envision and hope to see in Africa.
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          Jul 26 2011: Yes, I guess we pretty much think along the same lines. The discussion you propose is a very interesting one, and I think there are many TEDsters that would be interested in taking part in it. I thought about this conversation as being a bit more narrow and just focusing on the current emergency though (but of course within the framework of the larger problem, so that the long lasting damage food aid inflicts is taken into account).
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    Jul 25 2011: Anyone that has been convinced that this is a situation for which aid is a good solution, a facebook page has been created with the purpose of making people aware of the situation, and to collect and spread links to aid organisations working in the area. Please like and share the page, and consider donating to the organisation of your choice. With several governments facing economic difficulties, individual donations becomes more important. No one can do everything, but everyone can do a litte.

    If you are interested in doing at least a very small difference, like and share this page on facebook:

    And yet another article stressing the urgency of the situation:
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    Jul 22 2011: In order to fight the crisis you need to train, but in order to train, you got to listen this first.

    Trying hard now
    it's so hard now
    trying hard now

    Getting strong now
    won't be long now
    getting strong now

    Gonna fly now
    flying high now
    gonna fly, fly, fly...

    And after all this once you've train enough. You have to listen this.

    And then, you know what you got to do.
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      Jul 23 2011: Haha, yes if only solutions were as easy as we imagined they were as children. :)

      I were rather looking for answers to questions such as: Is food aid a good solution? What organisations are then best to support? Is it possible to push for public awarness of the problem and inform about what people can do? I am not looking for a universal solution, only what a best response from an individual would be, and ways to push awarness of it as far as possible. I am convinced that people are willing to help if they only understand the severity of the situation. We see this during quicker disasters such as the earthquakes in Japan or Haiti, where it is easier to grasp that large amounts of small donation will help.
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        Jul 23 2011: No to really fix that problem, you need to actually go there and start producing food there. It is by developing poor countries that we will fix the problem they face not simply by sending help or food there. It's by moving over there and found industries, what they need over there is technology and most of all, the knowledge on how to use the technology, because yes, they can learn stuff too.

        It probably won't be easy because they already face food crisis so you must expect a lot of stealing issues but if you go there to fix a problem of food crisis, you don't go there to make money, because they don't have much money, if you want to make money over there you have to produce a lot and send the product over seas to sell in rich countries but that won't fix the food problem.

        Mentalities have to change, people need to be less greedy, greed is not a good thing.
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          Jul 23 2011: Yes sustainable agriculture is what is needed, and as I understand it food aid can be very destructive to development of such. But I am not so much interested in solutions to the whole food problem here, which I think local farmers, the wider agriculture related sector and investors are best of solving in the long run.

          Here I am more interested in discussing what the solution to the current food crisis is. How it can be lessened with minimal damage to investments in future sustainable agriculture. I think aid organizations already working in the area are the best hope for a solution to that problem, and as they seem to lack money it seems reasonable that donations to aid organizations are the answers for an individual who would like to help.
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    Jul 20 2011: The UN has declare famine in two parts of Somalia and currently lacks $0.8bn to pay for essential programmes in east Africa.[1]
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      Jul 20 2011: Defenitely helpful in a long term perspective, or maybe to eat insects instead[1]. But it is hardly a good answer to the current crisis. Right?

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        Jul 22 2011: ...but is there a 'good' answer to the current crisis? The reality is that few of us can make a real difference to this present crisis, but all of us can help avoid future issues with famine - at least for the next little while we can still make a differenct. The tipping point is coming soon! I would only add that making informed consumer choices regarding food consumption is critical. Eating locally when possible, eating no - or less - animal products, etc.l can make a difference.
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          Jul 23 2011: If many were able to coordinate their effort, no one would need to make a big difference. Your long term solutions does not make a big difference for any individual, but are still perfectly fine solutions. There are organisations that work in the are right now, and they lack money. So I don't see that an individual has less ability to help here.
  • Jul 16 2011: Far enough so folks learn to stand on their own two feet. I've had to learn to do that when I moved out of my parents home 48 yrs. ago. I am a 66 yr. old woman who knows how to survive & as a former Red Cross volunteer, have seen way too many who just want to sit back & have folks wait on them. Katrina & Rita are prime examples. If you wish to spend your money to help someone(s), then buy hand equipment & seeds. Show them how to use it & step back. If they have no other means of help: The ground will get hoed, the rows will rise, seeds will be planted, water will be brought in (from far if need be), & these folks will start to live.
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      Jul 17 2011: Yes, people should do everything they can in order to support themself and to help people in a way that perpetuates depndence on the helper is not a very good solution. But I can't see a reason for why for example people in the Katrina or Rita hurricanes should have been denied lifesaving support when the disaster struck. Because one could argue that they put themself in the situation by not reacting to earlier warnings. But first of all it is not all that easy to just move, and second I think having to live through the catastrophe is enough of a lesson. Isn't it?
  • Jul 16 2011: "If you think you are too small to make s difference, try sleeping with a mosquito."
    When people are given tools to plow & seed to spread, they work hard to survive.
    When people are just given a hand out, they work hard to keep getting a hand out.
  • Jul 14 2011: Simply put: World governments should step up to the plate and do "the right thing"...
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      Jul 15 2011: Yes, governments should step in. But the question here is: "What can ordinary people do?" It may include such things as spreading the word, calling or mailing the local press to show that people want them to report on this and in this way create public awareness. Public awarness and support is important in order for people to support their governments actions and the larger the public support is, the larger the chance that governments will step in.

      But this is not only about governments actions. Because ordinary people have the ability to help by simply supporting the organisations that are able to step in, just like people were able to help in for example the Haiti earthquake. And I think the only thing that will determine if people are willing to support the organisations or not is if the crisis gets the same attention or not.