7.29.2011

Forecasts of the Somali famine were ignored

I heard this interview by Neal Conan about the Somali famine today (transcript here).  The excerpt below caught my attention: apparently ENSO forecasts were used by people in the humanitarian agencies to predict declines in the food supply, but the early warning system was ignored by donors. [If anyone knows about this, I want to learn more about what happend.]
CONAN: The World Food Program aid is going to those [Kenyan refugee] camps. Is it getting into Somalia? 
QUIST-ARCTON: Oh, it arrived in Mogadishu today, the Somali capital, because apart from the Somalis who were fleeing the drought-hit areas into neighboring countries, as we said into Kenya and Ethiopia, many thousands are also heading towards Mogadishu, the capital, in search of food, shelter and medical care. And that is where the U.N. World Food Program has started sending food. 
It's also going to make similar deliveries, we're told, towards the Ethiopian border, hoping, of course, to get into the zones that have been declared famine areas. But many people are saying too little, too late. This drought was predicted up to two years ago. How come the global community has waited to the last minute, has waited, as usual, they say, until they see emaciated children in images flashed all over the world before they act? 
CONAN: The drought conditions are part of a cycle called La Nina. It's a reflection of the cycles of weather that come from the Pacific Ocean. And as you say, they were predicted two years ago. Do aid officials have any explanation when people say why didn't you have supplies here already? 
QUIST-ARCTON: Well, they say they have been talking about it. They sounded the alarm. There's an early warning system and that it's not just now that they have been talking about it. But they - they say they have a shortfall as we speak of one and a half billion dollars. 
Not only for the emergency. They say the problem is when it reaches this emergency stage, it costs a lot more than if people are fed where they are, in Somalia, before things reach crisis level. So the humanitarian agencies are saying, look, we did our part. We sounded the alarm. But you know, we need the response from the U.N. member states and others to help these people before things reach an emergency, which of course they have done.

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