Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Relief slow to come in East Africa

Oxfam Canada blames donor fatigue for the slow pace of donations to aid the millions of starving people in East Africa – the majority of whom are children.

The United Nations has thus far raised only $1.1 billion of the $2.4 billion requested for famine relief. More than 12 million people are in urgent need of food following severe drought and conflict. In Somalia, it’s estimated that half the population needs food aid.

It’s not that Canadians aren’t donating. We have given about $20 million so far to registered charities such as the Oxfam and UNICEF – meaning that the government of Canada has matched these amounts. The government will continue to match aid donations until Sept 16. They funds provided through the government matching program go into a wider funding pool, not specifically to the program or organization to which a donation was made.

For my blog gift last month, V donated money to the Canadian Red Cross, and I made a donation to Medecins san frontiers (MSF). Both of these organizations are registered Canadian charities, so our gift will be matched by the government. Importantly for me, both of these organizations are highly respected in the field for being neutral in conflict and egalitarian in their aid delivery.

If you are interested in how donated money is being spent, organizations will provide breakdowns on their program funding. The CBC is also doing some analysis of where money for drought relief is going. For example, the World Food Program has spent $25.5 million to fee 11.5 million people. Oxfam has spent $3.75 million to provide water, sanitation services, and work projects such as promoting health and protecting livestock. Care Canada has targeted their $3.75 million on severely malnourished children under five and pregnant or lactating women.

GiveWell, an independent non-profit charity evaluator, notes that this famine in East Africa is very challenging for aid organizations – citing such factors as the hostile militant group al-Shabaab’s control of famine-stricken territories. However, they cautiously say that donations from individuals are more helpful in situations like this as compared to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

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