Cover Image
close this bookDrought and Famine - 1st edition (DHA/UNDRO - UNDP, 1992, 52 p.)
close this folderPART 3: Institutional issues
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentNational government roles
View the documentUnited Nations roles
View the documentDonor and NGO roles
View the documentRehabilitation

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation involves assisting the affected population to replace assets lost during the famine and, where this is realistic, to re-establish their livelihoods. The severity of the famine will determine the nature and scale of the rehabilitation requirements. Thus, if migration to camps and significantly increased mortality have occurred, a comprehensive rehabilitation program will be required. This may involve health care services, counselling, material supports e.g. seeds, tools, cooking utensils, and blankets and other support, especially transportation back to previous home sites, to re-establish homes and productive activities. If the impact of the transitory food insecurity episode was not severe and most households had not been obliged to sell productive assets (e.g. seeds stocks and breeding livestock) then a rehabilitation program may not be required. Rehabilitation needs should be carefully assessed and interventions tailored to the particular situation.


These returnees have been assisted to re-establish themselves

UNHCR/J. Courtin

The timing of rehabilitation interventions is particularly important. For example, seed distribution programs must be completed before the start of the next rainy season. Thus, the intervention has to be planned and implemented alongside relief activities. If the program is successful and the rains satisfactory then the relief activities may be wound down at the end of the growing season and other rehabilitation activities commenced. The need to assess, plan and prepare rehabilitation interventions when personnel are preoccupied with the relief interventions, is problematic for many relief agencies and it is not uncommon for the rehabilitation activities to be accorded lower priority. The record of successful rehabilitation activities has not always been satisfactory. Allocating staff to work on the rehabilitation interventions and protecting them from the pressures of the relief program, is often necessary to ensure effective rehabilitation programs.

Q. Under what conditions should rehabilitation programs be implemented?




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ANSWER

Rehabilitation programs are necessary after severe periods of transitory food insecurity and famines when households have lost most assets, been forced to migrate, and have experienced high rates of mortality.

Seed programs frequently form a key component of rehabilitation efforts. The rationale is that the affected population have exhausted their seeds stocks either through repeated re-sowings or consuming them as food. Nevertheless, care should be taken when assessing the need for a seed program as there have been instances where an area that was thought to be severely short of seeds, crop production recovers rapidly following the first good rains even in the absence of seed distribution programs. Seeds are highly divisible and households may be capable of acquiring small quantities from several different sources. However, while aggregate production may be capable of "bouncing back" rapidly, this may mask severe seed shortages in the most resource-poor farming households. Targeted seed distributions should be considered in such a situation.

Ensuring the timely provision of appropriate seed stocks is central to the effectiveness of seed programs. In a country experiencing food shortages resulting from production shortfalls, seed will be in short supply and seed prices inflated. Many government agriculture departments maintain seed stocks and these may be a useful source of in-country seeds for use in seed distribution programs. However, it should not be assumed that such seed stocks contain the appropriate varieties for the farming systems in the area where the distribution is to take place. The intervention tactics should take account of farmers' seed preferences and local ecological factors. Where appropriate seed varieties are not available from sources within the country, imported varieties may be considered. However, the seed importation is often hindered by logistical difficulties and importation regulations designed to prevent the spread of crop diseases. The success rate of seed programs using imported varieties is not high.

The success rate of seed programs using imported varieties is not high.

In countries where plough-based agriculture is practised, speed of recovery will be greatly increased if draught animals are kept alive during the drought or famine as suggested above. Alternatively, "restocking" schemes may be implemented to provide draught animals to households where animals were sold, died, or were eaten.

The rehabilitation of predominantly pastoral communities is lengthier than the rehabilitation of predominantly arable communities. Such communities invariably emerge from periods of transitory food insecurity with reduced flock/herd sizes and with a variable number of households having lost entire flocks/herds. Aggregate livestock losses of 80% or more have been recorded in recent famines in Africa. In such situations it may take a decade for herds to regain their pre-famine levels. Households which have been fortunate enough to sustain some of their breeding stock are likely to be able to regenerate their herds with little or no assistance. Households which have lost their breeding stock and have insufficient assets to purchase such stock (which will be available only at high prices following a period of high stock losses) may need assistance. Various types of "restocking" programs have been attempted, with varying degrees of success. Breeding stock may be procured locally or from elsewhere in the country and provided free or on loan to selected households.

Through the provision of credit households can be encouraged to make their own investment/consumption choices during the rehabilitation phase, e.g. to purchase their own breeding stock and farm equipment. Though more flexible such an intervention may be difficult from an administrative point of view and have implications for the degree and length of an agency's involvement in the area.

Q. What special considerations surround "seed" rehabilitation programs?




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ANSWER

Seeds must be distributed before the next set of rains; seed varieties must be appropriate to local farmer preferences and growing conditions; seeds are highly divisible and local stores may be sufficient for recovery purposes without special programs.

SUMMARY

Effective government response is critical to successful relief programs in response to famine. Unfortunately, in many countries that experience famine governments are unstable thus inhibiting effective responses. Several United Nations agencies have important roles to play in responding to famine. Because many emergencies include, in addition to famine and displaced populations, civil conflict and intense political considerations, the UN is developing new roles to support effective responses to provide humanitarian aid. Increasingly, donors are choosing to deliver famine assistance through NGOs. This trend has some significant implications for relief and rehabilitation programs.