The hunger and poverty situation world-wide was characterised by extremes drifting further and further apart, Welthungerhilfe President Bärbel Dieckmann maintained, presenting the organisation’s Annual Report in Berlin, Germany, in mid-May 2017. While progress was being made in countries that were able to develop in peace by and large, the food situation was worsening in crisis hotspots and in particular in areas where wars were going on. In the Horn of Africa, for example, where 22 million people were threatened, it had reached intolerable proportions. With their political instability, Syria and Yemen were endangering an entire region.
The international community must do more
Having announced the Marshall Plan with Africa, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) now had to let deeds follow words. Furthermore, the G20 countries were getting together in Hamburg, Germany, to hold their summit, having put Africa on the agenda as a focal topic. Dieckmann demanded that politicians and, in particular, Germany, which presides over this G20 year, demonstrate significantly more engagement in Africa.
The countries of Africa were also called upon to contribute around ten per cent of their national budget to developing agriculture and their rural areas. Again and again, project activities had demonstrated that this was the key to overall development. In addition, the social welfare and insurance systems had to be strengthened to cope with weather hazards; education was the basis for creating the millions of new jobs needed for young people.
Land rights and climate change were posing huge challenges for Africa’s countries. Dieckmann referred to the current debate in US politics that was questioning climate change as “eerie”. She expressed her hope that the next climate summit, COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, would send politicians further signals.
With a total of 263.9 million euros to combat hunger, Welthungerhilfe had a record sum at its disposal last year. This was the organisation’s biggest budget since its founding in 1962. The high level of willingness to donate also reflected people’s recognising the link between migration and the local context that refugees had been living in, according to Dieckmann. They did not reject migration, but wanted to improve the overall situation so that there was no longer a reason to move away.
“Early warning – early action"
The hunger situation in the Horn of Africa had come as no surprise. The operational early warning systems and stock level calculations had indicated precisely when food supplies would come to an end. However, the international community preferred to follow the motto “Early warning – no action”, criticised Welthungerhilfe Secretary General Till Wahnbaeck. In Somaliland, there have been no rainy seasons, leaving no breaks for agriculture and the inhabitants in the area to recover. Having lost 70 to 80 per cent of their livestock, people have moved on up to 400 kilometres to where there is still a little water.
“Many crises are predictable,” Wahnbaeck complained. Nevertheless, the world only responded with donor conferences in the wake of a crisis. “We need other mechanisms,” he demanded. Insurance funds against aridity and harvest losses always represented a better solution. “Early warning – early action,” Wahnbaeck concluded. For then, money would be spent at a point in time when there were still things to save. Each euro invested ahead of the crisis saved “repair costs” of four to five euros during and after the crisis. Wahnbaeck also called on politicians to show more willingness to take preventive measures and more courage to introduce new preventive instruments. And he demanded that they provide more money. The G20 Summit in Hamburg was a big opportunity in this respect.
Haiti: the crisis after the crisis
Development co-operation currently focuses on Africa. However, this must not cause other countries to be eclipsed. For example, Haiti was hit by four successive hurricanes in 2008. Two years later, a severe earthquake devastated the country and its rehabilitation efforts. Today, people are still using makeshift accommodation. Hardly anything has improved on this Caribbean island. Such a crisis after a crisis was a warning signal, Dieckmann explained. Resilient structures had not only been created where Welthungerhilfe had engaged in project activities. Houses erected after the earthquake could survive hurricanes. That Haiti should still require aid today was above all the fault of the unstable government, which was either unable or unwilling to establish resilient supply systems.
Roland Krieg, journalist, Berlin/Germany