27 October 2009, 16:43
Having read Sam Kiley's article in The Times, 25/10/09, which suggests that emgergency food aid should be withheld in situation of acute food insecurity, I wrote a letter to the Times which was published today.
"The UN World Food Programme the Red Cross and International relief agencies like Oxfam are well aware that food aid distribution is a blunt instrument for dealing with crises. But there is also considerable evidence to show that carefully targeted food aid, along with the distribution of cash to attract traders to move food from surplus to deficit areas, can enable vulnerable people to ride out lean periods which would otherwise have a devastating effect on lives and livelihoods.
Whilst no-one would disagree of the benefits of education, it is wildly off the mark to suggest it is a direct alternative for emergency food aid. Emergency food aid is triggered when preventative measures have not worked and existing safety nets are failing. Food aid, as part of a broader emergency aid package, can save lives and help restore livelihoods. Education is important in emergencies, but not as a replacement for food. Malnourished children do not make good pupils.
Like Mr Kiley, many of us that work in aid and development are frustrated with the painfully slow pace of progress. But the true 'humbug' in this article is to peddle a simplistic answer to a complex situation and one that, if taken seriously, would harm poor people in Africa."
This response was also published in the Times on line 28/10/09 alongside a letter from Oxfam's Humanitarian Director, Jane Cocking.