Is The Famine Crisis Appealing?

No humanitarian crisis is appealing and that is particularly true of the images on display in support of current crisis appeals for Yemen and East Africa.

Whilst it may be justifiable  and even essential to stimulate donors, the fund raising band wagon and the way it appears to be structured is not appealing to a large number of people.

Leaving aside current DEC appeals for a moment consider the Scottish registered Mercy Corp who took national newspaper advertising focused on ‘1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death – please give £45 for Life Saving Aid’.   Famine areas in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia were highlighted in the advert. In small print a footnote stated that ‘funds would be used where the need is greatest’. Given that Mercy Corp worked on projects in an admirable 40 counties last year, committing the majority of their £60m income, it doesn’t appear to be a focused appeal more riding the wave of emotion.

In the same paper (Daily Telegraph 17/3/17) there was a Unicef UK advert focused on the ‘East Africa Famine 5.5 million children in danger’ emphasising £35 could provide six weeks of emergency food.(Will it the cynic asks) Unicef receives no funding from DEC or the UN budget but regularly works in over 100 countries on humanitarian projects. As with Mercy Corp our in-house cynic could think some charities were using the current ‘focus on famine’ to top up there financial resources.

Returning to DEC, who took and I assume paid for a full page spread in the same paper, they are getting better at coordinating the disaster emergency efforts with at least 13 top line charities. DEC’s political contacts and clout may also have helped negotiate a pound for pound match funding from UK Aid up to £5million on top of gift aid. Action Aid is a DEC member who chose to send an appeal in a bespoke envelope. I can only assume all the Action Aid supporters donations will go straight into the DEC coordinated central financial reserve for rapid deployment and subsequent reporting back.


  • Primary concern is for those who are or may shortly be suffering life threatening famine, drought and consequent health problems.
  • How directly, immediately and focused will the aid be spent
  • Is the appeal blitz going to  inure donors to the victims plight and make non-contributing cynics of the the kind hearted.
  • Are the costs proportionate and related to the benefits.
  • Is the process fit for purpose and improving the outcomes where and when need.
  • The aid industry does not need any high profile probity or management problem with the consquent public relations.

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