The latest drought in East Africa that has particularly affected the ‘Horn of Africa’ is a reminder of the need to tackle to the causes of such humanitarian crises.
Food insecurity issues are not uncommon in many parts of East Africa. Tanzania, Eritrea, and Ethiopia as well those in focus at the moment, Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia, have all been suffering the effects of food shortages and price increases resulting from rainfall shortages.
The causes of drought and solutions to food shortages might seem obvious, but many researchers in the fields of economics, development and politics have found important socio-economic factors that play a significant role in the determination of food supplies, together with science based theories and climatic change.
Short term humanitarian relief efforts are undoubtedly incredibly important in countering catastrophic situations such as the one unfolding at the moment. However, as the description suggests, they are short term measures and somewhat inefficient in dealing with the root causes of such crises. A strategy overly focussed on short term humanitarian aid deals with immediate needs, but neglects many of the other pressing issues. For example, there are a huge number of internally displaced people and international refugees as a result of the current drought, mainly from Somalia into Kenya. A sudden increase in population around the Daad’ab Refuuge Camp, for example, will put a significant strain on resources in the local area both in the short and long term.
Climate change is clearly a major issue in the vulnerable areas of East Africa that ‘ordinarily’ sustains human, agricultural and wild life on the thinnest of rainfall margins. Negating the effects of climate change has been a major objective for NGOs working in these countries. Assisting vulnerable groups in adapting farming methods to harsher climates, diversification of income generation and farmer support mechanisms are key strategies of NGOs throughout the region. However, when it comes to a drought as serious as the present one, most of these practices would become redundant. These are effective in reducing food insecurity on a local scale and help to keep prices low.
Tackling climate change and assisting those most vulnerable is clearly a viable and long term strategy that, if executed properly and carried out widely across the region, should lessen the likelihood of drought. However, many have argued for a strategy socio-political reform to accompany tackling climate change. The economist Amartya Sen famously argued that famine is rarely caused by actual food shortages throughout a nation. The real causes are ineffective signals, brought about mainly by a lack of proper democratic institutions and ineffective agricultural markets. For example, freedom of speech and press allows concerns to be made known and acted upon. It also allows markets to allocate food supplies according need based on price signals. Democratic accountability is also important in forcing governments to design policies that protect populations from food shortages.
Others have argued for the use of early warning weather systems to predict when and where droughts may occur in the long term. However, effective use of such information depends on suitably designed economic and political systems to enable strategies to counter early warnings.
Climate change, humanitarian assistance and international development clearly tackle global issues that can ill afford to be conducted with poor communication. Language should not be a barrier to solving issues of global food production, international development or climate change.
At TJC Global, we offer linguistic services in over 180 languages as well as providing specialist translation and interpreting by tailoring projects to the needs of clients. We are able to do this by drawing on our extensive network of experienced professional linguists. We can select highly skilled translators and interpreters who have particular qualifications or experience in regard to the matter at hand.