By Dipo Olowookere
The lives and futures of more than 18 million people are at risk in the Greater Horn of Africa and in Nigeria, as a result of one of the worst hunger crisis in recent history.
This unfolding humanitarian crisis will be repeated again and again without concerted efforts to build resilience on the continent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned.
“As long as we have conflicts and do not take strong measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, food insecurity will be with us,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa. “As we respond to the risk of imminent mass starvation in Africa, we also need to invest in community-level capacities and systems, so that local communities are prepared for any future shocks.”
This warning comes at the end of a continental conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders, in Abidjan. The three-day meeting recommended a number of actions.
Other recommendations included strengthening domestic resource mobilization, increasing country-level policy dialogue with governments, fostering increased community ownership of programmes, and developing innovation centres in communities, while recognizing innovative community-level initiatives on disaster risks reduction.
“We need to take advantage of modern technologies in our response to current humanitarian challenges. Mobile applications and social media should be used to raise awareness on climate change and to share early warning information about disasters,” said Dr Abbas Gullet, IFRC’s Vice President. “We also need to improve data collection, through technology and capacity building at community level.”
The meeting also called on governments, donors and humanitarian partners to prioritize and invest in interventions that will finally help break the grim and destructive cycle of African hunger—by strengthening communities’ capacities and skills to better prepare for, and respond to disasters and food insecurity, among other crises.
“We’ve seen drought and hunger before: in Somalia in 2011 and 2012, in Niger in 2005, in Ethiopia in the 1980s. Not enough was done to prevent those crises from happening, and not enough is being done to prevent a similar disaster from happening in the future,” said Dr Gullet.
IFRC and member National Societies are providing long-term support to vulnerable communities throughout Africa. Local Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers are embedded in many of the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach communities.
“How many people will die this year? How many will die in future years if we don’t build the resilience of communities alongside our provision of emergency aid?” added Dr Gullet. “We cannot keep saying ‘never again’ unless we are prepared to change the way we respond.”
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