Aid groups seek to turn on funding tap to douse drought crises

Megan Rowling and Andrew Mambondiyani | BARCELONA/HARARE
When a big earthquake, flash flood or other sudden disaster hits, aid agencies spring into action with emergency responses and public appeals for donations. With droughts, it’s different.

If the rains don’t come, it can take months for the effects to be felt by poor rural families. Hunger kicks in only after crops fail, food stocks are exhausted and livestock start dying – but by then, help often comes too late to head off the worst.

The humanitarian world is still struggling to find a timely way to tackle “slow-onset” crises like droughts.

But a UK-based coalition of 42 relief groups from five continents, aiming to make aid delivery more effective, thinks it might have an answer.

The Start Network, funded by the British, Dutch and Irish governments, is putting together a new financing facility to enable a faster and more coordinated response to droughts, and plans to test its model in Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

In May, the network convened local and international agencies in Harare to discuss how it might work in the southern African nation still smarting from a devastating 2015-2016 drought, driven by the El Nino climate pattern, which left some 4 million people in need of food aid.

A 2016 U.N.-led appeal for more than $350 million to respond to the drought was less than 50 percent covered by donors.

“We realized humanitarian responses were not kicking in fast,” said Emily Montier, manager of the drought project for the Start Network. “There was a long period of procrastination with some decisions having to be made far away, resulting in delays.”

The “drought financing facility” aims to combine contingency funds, insurance and new modeling technology to shift humanitarian response from reaction to anticipation, she added.

“This will save more lives, livelihoods and assets, and significantly reduce costs,” she said.

Montier said many aid groups responding to drought had tried to access the Start Network’s existing fund for swift relief in small-scale crises, but it backs 45-day projects which is too short for drawn-out situations like droughts.

“Droughts were coming to that mechanism purely because there was nothing else out there,” Montier told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

LOCAL NEEDS

Other efforts to provide cash in time to stop droughts turning into hunger crises are gathering steam, including the African Risk Capacity, which provides payouts to African governments that take out cover, and index-based insurance for farmers, now growing in popularity from Kenya to India.

The Start Network facility aims to be more flexible while still operating on a national level, releasing its own funds for aid organizations to respond to smaller crises and tapping insurance payouts for large emergencies.

How it functions will differ according to the country. In Zimbabwe, a lot is already happening to help communities weather drought but that needs to be stepped up when conditions worsen, whereas in Pakistan, chronic dryness in some areas has created humanitarian needs that are simply going unmet, said Montier.

Shahida Arif, Asia regional learning adviser for the Start Network, said water shortages in Pakistani provinces like Sindh cause long-term nutritional problems and food insecurity.

With little help at hand, poor families are forced to sell off their cattle and other meager assets to survive.

“The government agencies do not have any plan so far to respond to drought,” said Arif.

That could change after Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) announced in February it would join the Start partnership to test the new facility in places like Sindh where tens of thousands of people were suffering the effects of drought.

With work near completion on web-based scientific models to calculate drought risks and potential funding options, the Start Network is talking to donor governments about funding the next stage of implementing the facility in Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Josh Ling of Mercy Corps in Pakistan said the project had “huge potential” to improve the lives of drought-hit communities, as it is designed to allow agencies to act rapidly and on a far bigger scale than individual insurance policies.

In Zimbabwe, some of the agencies involved – which include CARE International, Christian Aid and ActionAid – suggested the facility could be expanded to cover drought impacts on livestock as well as crops, and should also be used for floods.

If successful, the model may be applied to other natural hazards, Montier said. “There is a real need to gather more evidence around these approaches and how they work in practice,” she added.

(Reporting by Andrew Mambondiyani in Harare and Megan Rowling in Barcelona; editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate)

Related Content

Coronavirus – Africa: Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest (21 May 2020)

Download logoHIGHLIGHTS With Lesotho confirming on 13 May its first case of COVID-19, all countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have now been affected by the pandemic. South Africa confirmed that over 19,000 people contracted COVID-19 so far. Numbers are rising in Djibouti, Tanzania and Zambia, while Seychelles and Mauritius have no active cases. In Somalia, where the weak health system lacks capacity to respond, nearly 1,600 people contracted the virus, including 61 who died from the di

Coronavirus – Africa: World Bank announces $500 Million to fight locusts, preserve food security and protect livelihoods

Download logoThe World Bank Group approved today a US$500 million program to help countries in Africa and the Middle East fight the locust swarms that are threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people. Emergency Financing for Locust Affected Countries will help people recover from losses The Emergency Locust Response Program (ELRP), approved today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, will focus on providing immediate assistance to help poor and vuln

Coronavirus – Africa: Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 in food crises (May update)

Download logoAt the beginning of April, the 2020 edition of the Global Report on Food Crises was issued, presenting a stark warning for the future. In 2019 – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic – 135 million people experienced “crisis” and worse levels of acute food insecurity. A further 183 million were on the edge in “stressed” food security conditions. In other words, just one shock away from severe acute food insecurity. COVID-rela

Coronavirus – Africa: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) needs $350 million to avert rising hunger as countries reel from COVID-19 pandemic’s impact

Download logoMore and more people struggle to have access to or enough food in fragile countries The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is seeking $350 million to scale up hunger-fighting and livelihoods-boosting activities in food crisis contexts where COVID-19's impact could be devastating.  Although the pandemic's full-scale and long-term impact on food security is yet to be revealed, evidence shows that in countries already hit by acute hunger, people are inc

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

Capital Appreciation’s Bradley Sacks on COVID-19 impact on business

Capital Appreciation, a JSE fintech player raised its final dividend by over 17 per cent following an increase in annual revenue and profits. The payment solutions provider saw increased demand for its digital and cloud based services and said the Covid-19 pandemic has not impacted earnings negatively. Bradley Sacks, Joint CEO at Capital Appreciation joins CNBC Africa for more.

COVID-19 lock-down: This is how much SA’s alcohol ban cost the economy

After a two month ban on liquor sales, stores reopened today and thirsty consumers were waiting in line to replenish their stock. While the industry expects liquor sales to spike in the coming days, the ban on sales during the Covid-19 lock-downs has cost over 117,000 jobs. That’s according to the South African Liquor Brand owners Association (SALBA). SALBA CEO, Kurt Moore joins CNBC Africa for more.

Absa May manufacturing index surprises

The rand is rallying. Eight million people are back at work. Petrol will cost one rand and eighteen cents per litre more from next month and the latest Absa Purchasing Managers Index business activity sub-index rebounded to 43.2 in May after collapsing to an all-time low of 5.1 in April. The magnitude of the increase is surprising, given that most parts of the manufacturing sector could only operate at 30 per cent of employment capacity in May due to lockdown. Miyelani Maluleke, Economist at Absa Corporate and Investment Banking joins CNBC Africa for more.

COVID-19: Are Rwanda’s taxi motorbikes equipped for return?

Last night the Rwandan Prime Minister's office announced that the previously slated date of reopening of passenger motorbikes - which was meant to be today - has been extended until further notice. As the country gears up to reallow taxi-motorbikes to start operating again after over 2 months of being out of service due to Covid-19 measures; tech and mobility company, Pascal Technology has been hard at work equipping them to meet new regulatory measures. CNBC Africa spoke to Pascal Ndizeye, CEO and Founder, Pascal Technology to gauge their progress.

Partner Content

Sanlam Emerging Markets and its partners on the African continent invest over $12 million to fight COVID-19

As we go through this global pandemic together, it is the little things we miss. A high five, a handshake, a walk...

VIVO CEO is a dynamic leader for this innovative global brand

May 2020 -- Six months ago the vision for vivo in South Africa was just beginning to...

Trending Now

Why Germany’s coronavirus death rate is so low | CNBC Explains

While Germany has one of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases in Europe, its death rate is significantly lower than its neighbors. CNBC’s Timothyna Duncan explores the strategies the country has employed to manage the spread of the disease. ----- Subscribe to us on YouTube: http://cnb.cx/2wuoARM Subscribe to CNBC International TV on YouTube: https://cnb.cx/2NGytpz Like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cnbcinternational Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cnbcinternational/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CNBCi...

“Stop this culture of frivolous allegations” former World Bank Treasurer Arunma Oteh defends African Development Bank President

"So my appeal really is that we dispense of this issue. That we stop this culture of frivolous allegations around the times of elections. And allow the African Development Bank to support the African continent at this important time.”

How LGBTQ+ Pride Went From Movement To Marketing

With all of the changes to this year’s Pride lineup, many are left wondering how these virtual events will maintain their support of small LGBTQ+ owned businesses, like restaurants, bars, and brick-and-mortar stores, as well as LGBTQ+ focused nonpr

CNBC Africa celebrates 13 years on air

Today, June 1st marks our 13th Anniversary at CNBC Africa. As we celebrate our work and experiences at a time when the world is subdued by the coronavirus, here are views of some of our top analysts and friends from over the years....
- Advertisement -