Friday, September 02, 2005

International Blogging for Disaster Relief Day

I don't have much more to add concerning the situation in northern Niger. The basic two issues for me are that:

  1. Thirty years after the great drought in the Sahel of the early 1970s, and 20 years after a major Sahelian drought in 1984, with all the systems and networks in place to anticipate such a problem, this shouldn't have happened, and
  2. Even without anything high tech, a simple look into the granaries in the region last November would tell you a problem was coming.

Some problems are sudden and catastrophic like the Indian Ocean tsunami last December. Others are forseeable as probable eventualities, like a direct or near direct hit by a huge hurricane in New Orleans today or earthquakes in various regions. No excuse for not having contingencies and basic preparations.

Other slow-developing but obvious situations like that in Niger are a simple matter of response, planning, allocation of resources, and delivery. With ample time to discuss each phase to boot. Seemingly the easiest disaster to respond to, but still fumbled.

"Can't win for losing" in the Sahel takes on new meaning in this context. There is plenty of analysis floating around of varying quality, I'm sure, but the bottom line is that all of us in a position to understand and address the situation bear responsibility for an avoidable tragedy.

With the tremendous disaster in the wake of Katrina in the US Gulf Coast (& especially N.O.), the loss of life and long term impacts of the famine on families, cultures, and local economy in northern Niger will disappear from the world press. So will we let history repeat itself yet again in the Sahel when (not if) there's another crop failure?

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