UK Action on Hunger in Africa
30 million people will need relief to meet their food needs in Africa in 2006.
Countries in Southern Africa and the more north easterly parts (for example,
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia) are worst affected – accounting for nearly 24
million people in need.
Drought, disease and conflict cause hunger - but even in years of good rains,
millions still go hungry.
We call these the chronically hungry – those that cannot get enough to eat at
any time. Having no job or income, being unable to farm effectively or being
chronically sick or disabled all play a key role in chronic hunger.
What are the challenges?
are many challenges ahead for DFID and for African Governments.
In particular, we need to help Africa Government’s develop the technical
know-how to manage such programmes. In turn, we need to ensure that the
international community – including ourselves – can provide long-term technical
and financial support.
At the same time, we need to ensure we continue to improve the efficiency and
effectiveness of humanitarian aid delivery, recognising that there will always
be a continued role for emergency assistance, either for genuine humanitarian
crises or as a stop-gap measure in places where more appropriate safety-nets
have still to scale up.
What is the UK doing?
We are providing emergency relief for life threatening situations. Since
2005, DFID has provided:
- Food aid and medical interventions to feed people and reduce
malnutrition in Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya and Burundi
- Cash through OXFAM to drought-affected farmers in Zambia and in Kenya
- Seeds and fertilisers in Mozambique, Lesotho and Zambia
- Emergency food aid and medical care to those particularly affected by
malnutrition in the Sahel.
In cash terms, since early 2005:
- £67 million to the southern Africa crisis
- £46.9 million of emergency assistance to the ongoing food crisis (Kenya,
Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea).
- £15.5 million to Sudan and Chad to meet food needs
- £6.75 million to the Sahel region for
food aid as well providing cows, seeds and tools to help drought-affected
people rebuild their lives
- £3 million for food aid for delivery through World Food Programme in
- £700,000 to reduce the impact of food shortages in Tanzania.
The UK spent £76 million in total on humanitarian aid in Sudan, covering a
range of interventions in food, water, health and shelter. We have committed £63
million for 2006, £49 million of which was provided through a common fund.
Breaking the Cycle – Safety Nets
often increase the number of people facing chronic hunger over the longer term.
For example, when faced with hunger, people sell livestock, farming equipment or
land. This helps people survive day to day but makes it harder to escape the
poverty trap over the longer-term.
We can break this cycle of dependency by providing small payments of cash
and/or food or fertiliser and seeds (depending on circumstance) on a well-timed,
regular and long term basis to the neediest.
These ‘safety nets’ help people feed themselves and also prevent them from
selling assets like oxen and cows, or their land in times of crisis and help
them recover their assets in good times. So safety nets protect people from
shocks and extreme poverty.
But they can also help people become more productive – through providing cash
for people to buy livestock, even rent labour to help them farm, send their
children to school and get access to better health services. In some case,
people are given cash in exchange for providing labour to public works
These help build community infrastructure like community roads, wells or new
classrooms for schools. This benefits the poorest by giving them a cash or food
grant and benefits the community by providing much needed facilities.
Q and A on hunger and safety nets
Making a difference
Ethiopia, we have given £52 million so far to support the Productive Safety Nets
Programme. This helps support 7.2 million people who had previously depended on
emergency relief – such as food aid – every year.
These are people who had previously depended on
emergency relief - such as food aid - every year. This effort will be scaled up to
support 8.24 million people in 2006.
Safety nets make a real difference. People are now buying assets that
will help them out of poverty over the longer term, such as sheep and goats. And
the public works component is helping put in place vital community
infrastructure such as schools, access road and springs for clean water. Being
Government-managed, the safety net is also building the capacity and the
responsibility of Government to respond to the needs of its poorest population.
Increasing Safety Nets in Africa
We are working with African governments and the international community to
help develop safety net programmes of sufficient size to meet the needs of those
affected by chronic hunger - in particular, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, and
For example, we have committed £120 million to safety nets and social
protection in Kenya over ten years. Around two thirds of this will finance the
proposed ‘Hunger Safety Net Programme’. This will provide cash transfers for a
fixed period of three years to 300,000 people in the drought affected northern
areas. It is hoped that the programme will be rolled out to 1.5 million by year
4. (We will also be supporting a pilot cash transfers programme for households
with high numbers of orphans and vulnerable children).
In Zambia, a small pilot safety net in Zambia is promising as a model for a
national programme one million people (the number of Zambians surviving on less
than 1400 calories a day). The pilot suggests that even small amounts of cash –
around $33 per person per year – help people feed themselves but also provides
enough in many cases for people to invest in their production, buy essential
medicines and send their children to school.
This approach is growing in popularity too in Malawi and the Government is
currently rethinking its national strategy.
Related case study:
Early Warning and Vulnerability Information
Image courtesy of US Government
Reducing hunger is not just
about changing the way we respond to it – but understanding hunger better -
knowing when to respond and what the most appropriate interventions are.
DFID’s £4 million
Hunger and Vulnerability Programme in Southern Africa aims to help national
governments develop the technical know-how to manage effective information
systems and provide a forum for lesson learning across the region.
The programme aims to help develop national vulnerability information
systems. These can tell us how many people are vulnerable, what they are
vulnerable to and options on how to respond (through safety nets, emergency
assistance), and when its right to use food or cash in either context without
Last updated: 01 November 2007
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