Christopher Todd McDougall





“Waking up to an African famine”

West Africa, 13 February 1984


The Main Point

            Food shortages in Africa are leading to thousands of deaths.  The United States are realizing that they need to help aid Africa with millions of tons of food to avoid international disaster.


            The bureaucracy, represented by the Agency for International Administration has ran out of money.  The Administration has $500 million to spread out over the next five years to meet Africa’s growing food needs.  This amount is not nearly sufficient to make ends meet.  There are many problems that the United States needs to respond too.  The lack of information, there is little coordination among international government and private donors are not assisting enough.  The Food Agriculture Organization prepared a set of figures that claim that Africa needs 5 million tons of imported food.  There is an assumption that these countries will import 2 million tons.  Therefore the food aid is set at 3 million tons.  In Mauritania, Ghana, Ethiopia and Mozambique deaths are occurring due to a lack of aid.  Livestock populations are being decimated, massive movements of population are taking place and water shortages are increasing.

 AID and FAO have a very patchy view of the real problem.  They rely too heavily on local government estimates.  Most estimates seem to be based on extrapolations of current studies or historical data.  There is a three to six month gap between the pledge and actual delivery to the needy.  The FAO reports that as of January 9th only 600,000 tons have been delivered in Africa. 

Why doesn’t the president of the United States, recognizing the scale of disaster, help prevent deaths in Africa and mobilize a coordinated effort from the international community?  No one will ask for 300 million but the Department of State is mounting a major effort to obtain $10 billion from Congress for Latin America.  It is clear to people all around the world that there is a disaster in several African countries and the number continues to grow.  However there is not co-ordination among donors.  There is not central body of current information of needs, pledges, shipments, and deliveries.  The United States, being a super-power, should use its wealth and technical capacity to aid Africa.   The voices of Africa have yet to be heard on Capital Hill and elsewhere in the world.  The powerful are accessible in the United States and they are not being notified and probably informed of the bad situation in Africa.