Knee-jerk response to drought must end

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 18 – With more than 10 million people affected by the drought in the horn of Africa, the United Nations (UN) warns it will take more than an emergency response to solve the crisis.

Speaking during a press briefing on Monday, UN Secretary-General Special Adviser Jeffrey Sachs said development-based initiatives would be more effective in ensuring another drought crisis does not recur.

“If we go on responding to droughts and crisis like this, there will be no end and there will be no solution and the relief will always be too little too late. The only solution is to enable people to escape from extreme poverty all together so that they have the wherewithal of their survival so that they have a buffer when shocks hit,” he said.

Prof Sachs said tackling the emergent climate danger, curbing rapid population growth and addressing extreme poverty are crucial in reversing the crisis.

The drought which is a result of two years of failed rainfall in the horn of Africa, Prof Sachs revealed was a preventable disaster, citing meetings he had with chief heads of state, two years ago, warning of the impeding drought in the region.

“Many years ago we said there needed to be an initiative in the dry lands because when a shock like this occurred there would be devastation. I actually discussed this with President Obama two years ago, but there has been no effective response from the West at all, and now there is a scramble to do something,” he said.

He warned that this kind of shock to the region is coming with more frequency and severity, fuelled by greenhouse gas emissions of the US and Europe.

Pastoralists have been impacted most by the drought constituting 30 to 50 million people, which Prof Sachs said requires member states in the region to respond to the drought with an integrated development approach.

“Pastoralism inherently does not and can never reflect the national boundaries because pastoralists have to cross boundaries. When we bring the six countries together we are also talking about this as a regional project where there is a regional value chain and an ability to move,” he said.

The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Centre, has already put development-based programs in place like the Drylands Initiative that aids pastoralists with animal production, infrastructure, health, education, and business projects in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Sudan.

The Millennium Villages is another initiative that works with villages across Africa to create and facilitate sustainable, community-led action plans that are tailored to the villages’ specific needs and designed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Prof Sachs said despite the foreign aid that is dispatched to the region, responsibility ultimately starts with the African governments by practicing good governance and implementing mechanisms that mitigate calamities like the drought from happening in the future.

Victoria Rubadiri

Victoria Rubadiri

Victoria is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She has experience working as a freelance PR consultant in New Jersey and New York, as well as broadcast media at WMGM NBC 40 television station in Linwood, New Jersey. Her interests are in youth issues; mentoring teens both in the US and Kenya, for the past three years.