Famine in East Africa
Logistical Nightmare Hinders Aid Efforts in Somalia
Lang stresses that there is no point in blindly funnelling money into a region: It's essential to pinpoint the concrete needs of those in need through aid workers on the ground. Once they know what items are needed, every detail has to be determined in concrete terms. Say an aid organization wants to provide 3,000 newly arrived families from Mogadishu with food and water for a three-month period. The calculations might be made as follows: Each family will need 30 kilos of rice, 30 kilos of beans, 15 liters of cooking oil and a few canisters of water.
One especially controversial issue is the question of how much food should be bought locally. The WFP, for instance, obtains some of the goods it distributes in famine regions from southern Africa -- including corn, millet and wheat. "It's best to buy locally in order to support the local structures," says WFP Germany spokeswoman Katharina Weltecke. Other organizations also point to advantages in buying local, since doing so can help support African farmers and save on transport costs.
Doris Fuchs of the University of Münster in Germany says importing goods from Europe or the United States can have dire consequences, because it can "destroy local markets and can often lead to a continuation of the crises." The problem, however, is that there are limits to how much food can be taken from other regions -- take too much and a new food crisis could develop elsewhere. "When many organizations buy foodstuffs all at once, local markets become overloaded and prices are driven up," says Lang. As a result, fewer people can afford food.