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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

(introduction...)

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

After reading and completing the exercises in this part of the module, you will be able to:

· differentiate the drought and famine roles of various UN agencies, national governments, NGOs and donors

· understand potential new roles for the UN in famines which involve civil conflict and intense political consideration

· specify how and when rehabilitation programs should be established

Introduction

Famines are, in theory, preventable but they require significant organizational resources. A large number of international, national, and local organizations exist and are necessary to combat famines and alleviate suffering. The system by which the international community and national governments respond to developing famines is extremely complex and not well formalized. The following section describes the roles of national governments, the UN system, and NGOs in providing relief and rehabilitation.

National government roles

Effective action by national governments is crucial to successfully implement efforts outlined above to reduce vulnerability to famines. Preparedness to mitigate the effects of famine requires that additional response capacity be sustained on an ongoing basis within the system. Where governance is ineffective, such capacity is unlikely to be maintained between famine episodes. Thus, the substantial international investment in the transport capacity of the Sudan in the mid-1980s was not sustained and is being rebuilt to cope with the 1990-91 situation.

Similarly the performance of the national government is crucial to the effectiveness of the overall response by the international community once a famine is developing. Where, as in Botswana and Kenya during the mid-1980s, a national government is prepared to take the lead in initiating its own relief program and guide the subsequent international response and where the situation is uncomplicated by conflict and severe internal political strains, the international response system works relatively effectively. Where these conditions are not met, as in the case of Sudan and Ethiopia during the mid-1980s, the international response system has frequently performed poorly.

United Nations roles

Several UN agencies are involved in responding to transitory food insecurity and famines. The greater part of resources channelled through the UN in response to such situations are via WFP (food aid), UNHCR (all forms of assistance for refugees) and UNICEF (non-food relief, but especially health and water supply with a focus on women and children as priority groups). (See Box 11 for a simplified outline of the roles of key UN agencies).

Most of the coordination between agencies takes place at the country level. The UN Disaster Management Team, chaired by the UNDP Resident Representative/Resident Coordinator has an important role to play in coordinating the UN's response, but its role may be different than during sudden-onset disasters. The slowly intensifying nature of famines means that existing donor coordination arrangements may be utilized, at least up to the point where the situation is recognized to require an exceptional response. In extreme cases, the UN Secretary General may choose to provide a stronger coordination mechanism.

In light of the issues created by compound and complex emergencies which often include population displacement, famine, civil conflict and intense political considerations, the United Nations has determined to strengthen and make more effective the collective efforts of the international community, in particular the UN system, in providing humanitarian assistance. This determination is reflected in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 46/182, passed in December of 1991.

This resolution affirms that humanitarian assistance must be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. Accordingly the UN has a central and unique role to play in providing leadership and coordinating the efforts of the international community to support the affected populations.

The implementation of Resolution 46/182 includes the creation of a contingency funding arrangement, that is, a central emergency revolving fund of US $50 million as a cash-flow mechanism to ensure the rapid and coordinated response of the organizations of the system. The UN will also establish a central register of specialized personnel and teams of technical specialists, supplies and other resources that can be called upon at short notice by the UN.

The leadership of this UN initiative will be provided by a high level official, the emergency relief coordinator, designated by the Secretary-General, to work with the entities of the UN system dealing with humanitarian assistance. This position combines the functions previously carried out in the coordination of UN response by representatives of the Secretary-General for major and complex emergencies, as well as by the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator.

This emergency relief coordinator, among other duties, is charged with facilitating the access by the operational organizations to emergency areas for the rapid provision of emergency assistance. In cases of complex emergencies this may require negotiation with all parties concerned to obtain their consent and, where needed, the establishment of temporary relief corridors, days and zones of tranquility and other forms.

Box 11

ROLES OF THE KEY UN AGENCIES IN MITIGATING TRANSITORY FOOD INSECURITY


Vulnerability Reduction

Preparedness

Early Warning

Relief Provision

Relief/Recovery Coordination

Rehabilitation

Conflict Resolution & Protection





Food

Non-food




UNDP

*

*

-

-

x

*

*

x

WFP

x

*

*

*

x

x

x

-

FAO

*

*

*

-

x

x

*

-

UNHCR

-

x

x

x

*

x

*

*

DHA-UNDRO

*

*

-

*

*

*

x

*

UNICEF

*

x

x

x

*

x

x

x

WHO

*

x

-

-

x

x

x

-

ILO

*

-

-

-

-

-

x

-

WORLD BANK

*

x

-

-

-

x

*

-

Note: The mandated roles of the agencies may vary according to local circumstances

Key:

- = no role or involvement
x = some role involvement
* = important role or involvement

UN Secretariat

Location of the Unit for Special Emergency Programmes and the Office for Emergency Operations in Africa (1984-86). The UN Secretary General occasionally appoints Special Representatives at country level to coordinate large scale relief operations.

UNDP

Involved in vulnerability reduction, preparedness and rehabilitation through its various development activities. As the in-country representative of the UN system, the UNDP Resident Representative plays a key role in coordination.

WFP

Provider of substantial proportion of emergency food aid to Africa and coordinator of contributions and shipments by bilateral donors. Involvement frequently includes in-country logistics involving bulk movements to regional or district distribution points.

FAO

Involved in vulnerability reduction and rehabilitation through its agricultural development activities. Involved in drought preparedness activities (preparedness planning, manuals development, training, etc.) in several African countries. The FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System is the main global early warning system for drought-related disasters and FAO provides assistance to national early' warning systems. The FAO Office for Special Relief Operations (OSRO) occasionally leads multi-donor assessment missions to countries requesting substantial food aid assistance. Seed provision as part of drought recovery is FAO's responsibility. FAO provides food security planning at national, regional, village and household levels, assists in building and managing food security stocks, and works with response and assessment missions in case of food emergencies as well as agricultural rehabilitation.

UNHCR

Responsible for coordinating the provision of all forms of assistance to refugees. Some attempt is made by UNHCR to gain early warning on large scale refugee movements. WFP has increasingly taken over responsibility for provision of food aid to camp level. UNHCR is supported by NGO's, UNICEF, and national government agencies in providing/distributing non-food assistance to camp populations. UNHCR has primary responsibility for organization of repatriation programmes, once this becomes feasible.

UNDRO

Mandated responsibility for coordination of international relief and assisting countries with disaster prevention and preparedness. In many instances its coordination activities extend little beyond the collation, analysis, and dissemination of information on relief requirements.

UNICEF

Involved in vulnerability reduction and rehabilitation through development activities, etc. focusing on children and women. Frequently plays an important role in the provision of health care (basic medicines support for primary health care system) and water provision (drilling rigs, borehole rehabilitation and handpumps) during relief operations. The one UN agency which is not bound by its charter to provide assistance to organizations approved of by the national government. Consequently, UNICEF has played a lead role in the provision of relief assistance to rebel-held areas of South Sudan.

WHO

Provides technical assistance and advice on medical requirements during emergencies.

There are many operational considerations in complex emergencies. One of the most crucial is that of the safety of relief teams in conflict zones. As coordinators of assistance for the displaced, the UN staff bears a special responsibility for ensuring that all personnel operating in or adjacent to conflict zones work in conditions of minimum risk and maximum security. Guidelines and procedures for personnel should be established in conjunction with the host government and, where possible, with insurgent groups. The UN is often charged with the responsibility of notifying relief workers and other organizations about the risks they may face from military operations in or near their relief activities. In this regard, the UN is often able to obtain clearances for special flights into contested areas on airplanes bearing United Nations markings, to arrange for safe transport through the front lines in specially-marked UN vehicles, and to establish special relief corridors whereby food and relief supplies can be delivered under flags of truce or through designated corridors, without undue restraint. It is important for the UN to carefully assess the risks before encouraging relief organizations to commit personnel and resources to operations in non-secure areas. A UN assurance that an area or means of transport is safe carries mud weight - and responsibility.

Two of the most important aspects of working in remote and insecure areas are communications and stand-by evacuation support. To the greatest extent possible, UN coordinators should ensure that relief personnel have immediate and 24-hour access to telecommunications facilities and that suitable means are immediately available to evacuate personnel in case of an emergency. This may entail the assignment of light aircraft to be available or short notice to evacuate staff.

Q. How does Resolution 46/182 affect UN roles in meeting famine needs?




A. __________________________________________________________
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ANSWER

Resolution 46/182 increases the capacity of the UN system by providing an emergency funding mechanism, mandates creation of a roster of individuals and resources to respond to famine situations and affirms that humanitarian assistance is a foremost goal of the United Nations which may require exceptional negotiation with various parties to a conflict.

Donor and NGO roles

While there is considerable variation between countries, it is generally the case that the majority of resources provided in response to transitory food insecurity is provided by bilateral donors on a government-to-government basis or channelled through NGOs. For instance WFP is responsible for providing only 20% of total emergency food aid and bilateral donors provide the rest. Increasingly NGOs are used by bilateral donors as channels for their assistance. Approximately 40% of emergency food aid to Africa is now channelled through NGOs such as CARE, Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and the Catholic Relief Services. These trends have important implications:

· they increase the potential role of foreign policy considerations in the provision of relief and, thereby, may influence the effectiveness of the response;

· potentially they limit the role of UN agencies, though much depends on local circumstances and the level of collaboration at the country level between UN and bilateral donor personnel;

· they increase the need for effective coordination mechanisms between the government, bilateral donor organizations, UN agencies and NGOs.

The donors use NGOs to channel relief assistance because of:

· doubts about the effectiveness of government agencies to handle the large volumes of assistance

· doubts about the commitment/ability of government agencies to reach those most in need

· fears of corruption and high levels of "leakage".

NGOs are particularly attractive to bilateral donors in areas where sovereignty is contested and a rebel movement is in control of significant portions of territory. For foreign policy/diplomatic reasons, bilateral donors may be unwilling to be seen providing assistance in such areas, even if it is humanitarian assistance. By virtue of their respect for national sovereignty, UN agencies may be prevented from operating in such areas. Bilateral donors may therefore use NGOs, either as intermediaries between the donor and local agencies or a bulk transporter and final distributor.

The increasingly important role of NGOs has a number of implications. Where the government or UN has established effective coordination mechanisms and the number of NGOs in the country is limited, coordination among the NGO community may be adequate. Where government and UN coordination mechanisms are weak and there is a significant increase in the number of NGOs, significant coordination problems may arise. While in the short run, the use of NGOs may be necessary to ensure a prompt and effective response, the use of NGOs should not prevent the longer run efforts to strengthen the capacity of government agencies.

Q. Identify the implications of the increasing tendency of donors to use NGOs to provide famine assistance.




A. __________________________________________________________
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ANSWER

It increases the potential (or foreign policy considerations to drive relief program designs); potentially limits the role and authority of UN agencies; and increases the need for coordination mechanisms.

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?




A. __________________________________________________________
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____________________________________________________________
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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?




A. __________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________


____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________

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.