Famine in Africa:

Improving Emergency Food Relief Programs

NSIAD-86-25: Published: Mar 4, 1986. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1986.

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GAO reviewed the Agency for International Development's (AID) fiscal year 1984 emergency food program for drought-stricken Africa to determine program results and to evaluate program management.

AID provided emergency food to cooperating sponsors in each country, who then distributed the food to the needy. As of December 1984, the sponsors had: (1) distributed 68 percent of the food; (2) not distributed 22 percent; (3) reported the status as unknown for 9 percent; (4) lost 1 percent; and (5) distributed 56 percent to the neediest people. GAO found several factors limiting AID emergency food distribution: (1) difficult terrain; (2) inefficient transportation networks; (3) limited government capabilities for assessing food needs; and (4) variances in the missions' planning and monitoring of emergency food distribution. GAO also found that: (1) there was a direct relationship between the amount of planning and monitoring and the extent to which the food reached the most needy people; (2) the success of emergency programs depends on whether emergency food arrives when it is most needed and can be transported to drought-affected areas; (3) food delivery during rainy seasons can delay or preclude the delivery of significant quantities; and (4) the arrival of large quantities of food shortly before a harvest could significantly limit program success. GAO noted widespread problems in the AID program in Somalia because the government did not follow procedures in selling and auctioning wheat and other commodities, resulting in loss of funds for local development projects.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 27, 1987, AID informed GAO that revisions to chaper 9 of its Food for Peace Manual will include the GAO suggested changes. Revisions to the handbook will not be finalized until after the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 1988. Because of the length of time this recommendation has been open and the uncertain completion date, GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, in order to improve the prospects for emergency food to reach those most seriously affected by famine, should require missions to review and approve cooperating sponsors' plans for distributing emergency food prior to its arrival. Missions should ensure that distribution plans specify the: (1) geographic areas or categories of people that will receive aid; (2) amount each area or group will receive; and (3) transportation and distribution networks to be used.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 27, 1987, AID informed GAO that revisions to chapter 9 of its Food for Peace Manual will include the GAO suggested changes. Revisions to the handbook will not be finalized until after the first quarter of FY 1988. Because of the length of time this recommendation has been open and the uncertain completion date, GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, in order to improve the prospects for emergency food to reach those most seriously affected by famine, should require missions to submit emergency food requests as early as possible and, where appropriate, should encourage missions to submit partial requests based on preliminary estimates of cereal needs, and follow up with supplemental requests once needs are better known.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 27, 1987, AID informed GAO that revisions to chapter 9 of its Food for Peace Manual will include the GAO suggested changes. Revisions to the handbook will not be finalizied until after the first quarter of FY 1988. Because of the length of time this recommendation has been open and the uncertain completion date, GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, in order to improve the prospects for emergency food to reach those most seriously affected by famine, should strengthen AID Handbook 9 standards for monitoring emergency food. Such standards should specify the extent and type of monitoring needed to ensure proper accounting for commodities sold or distributed free, including visits to storage facilities, regional and local distribution sites, and villages.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The January 27, 1987, AID Inspector General report stated that improvements were made in monitoring and commodities warehousing conditions reported by GAO, but recommended a $10 million reduction in the Title I program due to overprogramming, commodity delivery before harvest time to avoid disincentive, and measures to avoid government interference in commodity auction to the private sector.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should direct the AID Inspector General (IG) to review Public Law 480 food programs in Somalia; this would provide additional information on the results of title I and II food programs and identify needed improvements.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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