“We’ve given billions and billions in aid, why are people still hungry?”
Part of Africa been suffering food crises for decades, so it’s understandable that people who donated in the 1970s, 80s and 90s want to know why, years later, hunger has not gone away. Why, after millions – perhaps billions – of pounds have been donated to the continent, are they being asked to help again?
Because – sadly – it is an incredibly complex issue. Droughts are natural and recurring in many areas of Africa, but in recent years the resilience of vulnerable people has decreased, making them less able to cope. High food and fuel prices, displacement and conflict – coupled with underlying poverty and recurrent drought – have added to people’s vulnerability.
Many communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of food insecurity (Pictured above: Red Cross food security project in Burkina Faso. © IFRC/ Sarah Oughton) not having enough food makes people more susceptible to malnutrition and ill health, and raises the risk of death. Being unwell and lacking sufficient energy makes it harder to make a living and buy or grow food.
While aid can effectively provide a short-term solution to hunger, long-term programmes to reduce people’s vulnerability are one way to break the cycle. The Red Cross is helping people prepare for – and cope with – droughts and other risks, so that in future their communities will be more resilient to future disasters.
However, our ability to respond to a crisis is dictated by the amount of money we receive, and when. Often, the money doesn’t start coming in until the tragic stories are splashed all over the papers.
By the time stories about babies dying of malnutrition hit the news, protecting, recovering and strengthening people’s means of making a living is no longer enough. The crisis reaches a point where only emergency aid can stop people dying.
It is terribly sad to see hunger in some African countries happen again and again, but there is no quick fix for such a huge problem. Money donated to us will help stop people suffering in the short term and increase people’s long-term ability to cope. But some of the causes of, and therefore solutions to, these problems are political – the Red Cross cannot end conflict or control food prices.
“Aid money only goes into the pockets of rich leaders, despots and tyrants, so why bother donating?”
Corruption can be an issue in some of the countries where DEC member agencies such as the Red Cross work, so it is understandable that donors want to know where their money is going.
Both in the UK and overseas, we are extremely careful to ensure that your donation reaches the people who need it most.
The Red Cross operates internationally through a network of Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies, which deliver aid at a local level. All money donated to British Red Cross emergency appeals stays entirely within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and is used directly to support the people you wanted to help.
We are used to working in challenging environments, and Red Cross staff and volunteers are always present on the ground to monitor the situation and manage the operation, ensuring aid reaches those who need it most with transparency and accountability – both to those donating funds and to those in need of support.
“Isn’t this a population problem – shouldn’t people who can’t afford children stop reproducing?”
Some people say that families in developing countries shouldn’t have so many children if they can’t feed them – why not stop them having kids by promoting birth control?
While the global population is on the rise, the world’s current hunger problem isn’t due to the number of people on the planet. The world produces enough food to feed everyone – including large families in developing countries – and this is even after the third of it we waste has been thrown away.
A real issue is poverty: through no fault of their own, many people around the world can’t access the food they need – properly nutritious food – mostly because they cannot afford to buy it, particularly now that food prices have risen to record levels.
Related to poverty there are other issues – though people may wish for smaller families, they sometimes cannot afford the means to effectively plan them. Furthermore, in some cultures people are expected to have large families, so that children can support parents in their old age.
One of the best ways to give people control over their lives is to ensure they have access to education and are able to make a living for themselves. Learning about family planning and birth control is part of this process, but certainly not the only part.
By Ellie Matthews