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
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?
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
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
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"
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.
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