Famine relief lessons from Operation Restore Hope

From Jim Sanders, Burke, VA, US

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Sir, Thanks to the FT’s bold editorial “The season of famine looms across Africa” (February 23), global awareness of Africa’s famine crises may spur donations needed by aid agencies working in the affected countries. But the magnitude of the situations they face may be more than they can handle, even in cases where they co-operate with “national actors”.

Operation Restore Hope, which provided aid to drought-stricken Somalia in the early 1990s, offers a model that could be considered for use in countries where domestic institutions, even with foreign aid partners, can’t cope. Military assets used to transport aid to remote locations saved many lives.

Discoveries made at the time are relevant today, too. The creation of Rajo, a one-page newspaper which the US military flew to different regions of Somalia to pave the way for relief deliveries, provided news from all over the country and human interest stories, as well as information about food relief convoys. Each copy was read so many times that some disintegrated.

Famine relief isn’t only about mobilising external Samaritans, it is also about rebuilding internal connections in countries where these have broken down. Newspapers can help.

Jim Sanders

Burke, VA, US

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