|Famine, Needs-Assessment and Survival Strategies in Africa (Oxfam)|
|2 A case of crying wolf?|
Whatever the distortions involved in assessing needs, there is no doubt that actual delivery of relief has tended to fall far short of these assessments. Consider the case of Sudan in 1991. The actual receipt of relief in Darfur by no means matched assessments of needs. In Kebkabiya area council, North Darfur, households had receded an average of 29kg per person by the end of 1991. This quantity, although significant, would not have lasted longer than six weeks. Moreover, the major part of this food arrived late, in the period October-December, whilst it was most need in the period before the harvest. In North Darfur as a whole, significant quantities of relief were not received by households until October. Between October and December the flow of relief from El Fasher to districts of North Darfur was substantial, but still only around one-third of estimated requirements (1,000 mt per week for the North Darfur population of 1.2 million, compared with an estimated need of 400 gm per person per day). In Red Sea Hills, individuals were reported to have received some 12-14 kg per month since June 1991, when distributions began.
In Angola, relief is thought to have played a much smaller role in ensuring people's survival than people's own survival strategies, which have been assisted by the fertility of much of Angola and the general absence of severe population pressures (except in certain urban areas where people have been artificially concentrated as a result of the war). Oxfam field staff in Angola report that people displaced by the civil war have rarely received relief assistance during the period immediately after their displacement. Some food and other relief items have eventually reached these people, with the government, international donors and NGOs tending to channel assistance through the government organization SEAS (Secretaria de Estado dos Assuntos Socials). Oxfam's country representative comments:
Until a stock of humanitarian emergency goods was established in Luanda, such assistance was generally extremely slow in arriving, given the procurement, maritime shipping delays, port bureaucracy and internal logistics of delivering assistance to would-be beneficiaries.
Relief for those in southern and central provinces who were affected by drought in 1989-90 was, for the most part, 'too little, too late'. In general, a large portion of international assistance has been directed at urban rather than rural populations. Most international relief has been directed at government-held areas of Angola, although a number of US NGOs have worked in areas controlled by the insurgent UNITA forces.
In Mozambique, the shortfalls in delivery of relief are well illustrated by the fact that 1991 saw the delivery of quantities of relief that had been pledged for 1989. One agency worker said distributions had generally been at less than half rations, and this appears to be confirmed by detailed information on distributions in the worst-hit province of Zambezia. The 1990-91 appeal envisaged a ration of 12.17kg per month offood aid (mostly maize, with some beans and oil) for 429,000 beneficiaries in Zambezia province. Given that only 73 per cent had reached district level by October 1990, and given that the real beneficiary population was then being estimated at some 854,000 people, the average quantities received must have been very much lower than the intended levels, the report stated. It calculated the average ration at 4.49kg per person, adding that it was observed in some of the districts visited that the average distributed was 1.2kg per person. Of nonfood relief items, only clothing was provided in important quantities, much of it from Oxfam/UK, the report said. Nor was Zambezia by any means the worst case, in terms of food deliveries. Between May and August 1990, 88 per cent of estimated need was distributed in Zambezia province. Yet distributions of emergency food in other provinces over the same period varied from 124 per cent of estimated needs in Maputo province to 45 per cent in Sofala and Niassa. Logistical and security constraints impeded distribution in most provinces.