International Response to Food Crises in Africa


Hundreds of thousand people died and millions were affected by food crises in different parts of Africa in the last 30 years. Some regions experienced serious shortages of food multiple times and many are still at high risk of food crisis in case of unfavourable weather conditions. Most food crises in Africa were caused by failed harvests due to severe drought but in most cases, the crises also occurred due to lack of strategy of the local governments for emergency situations and to improve food security.

The international response to food crises in Africa has been a target of controversy and criticism in the recent years, mostly due to slow response. The affected countries often did not receive international attention until they were already faced with major humanitarian crisis, while many people did not receive help on time. As a result, thousands of people died from starvation and hundreds of thousands still live with consequences of malnutrition. The international public was also infuriated when a report by the BBC revealed that millions of dollars that were raised to relieve the famine in Ethiopia in 1983-1985 were spent on buying weapons. The British broadcaster, however, later published that its reporting has been misleading and that it contained statements that were not based on evidence.

There is no doubt that the international response to food crises in Africa could have been better and faster, however, it was the intentional aid that helped prevent most food crises from turning into humanitarian catastrophes. In addition, distribution of food to the affected populations is often very difficult due to the military conflicts in many African countries. Criticism of the international public regarding slow response is therefore in many cases unjustified because the aid workers sometimes cannot reach everyone and are often risking their lives to help the most affected populations.

Food distribution, of course, is not enough for management of food insecurity in Africa which is also one of the most common subjects of criticism of charity organizations. The international public, however, is not adequately informed about the work of charity organizations who also work with and in the high-risk regions on development of long-term plans to improve food security. The misconception that the international community acts only when people are already dying from malnutrition and starvation is probably also related to the fact that the intentional public is urged to help only when the situation is very serious and that the media often report about food crises only when they turn into serious humanitarian crises.

The international community helps the affected countries in multiple ways. In addition to food distribution, international charity organizations also work with the governments of the affected areas on development of plans for prevention, fund programmes which help improve food security, etc. as well as work on the field with the people to help improve quality of life of the most vulnerable populations mostly through educational programmes.