Red Cross warns that aid focus is neglecting Africa

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has warned NGOs against concentrating PR efforts on Iraq at the expense of ‘chronic emergencies’ in Africa.

The body’s 11th annual Disasters Report, released this week, says humanitarian agencies and the general public are worryingly shifting their emphasis towards aid efforts in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, while reducing efforts concerning Angola, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report reveals that in April 2003, £1bn of relief and reconstruction aid was raised for Iraq, yet there is still a £612m shortfall faced by the UN to avert starvation among 40 million Africans.

A British Red Cross spokes-man said that one way to bring better, more accurate information to the public’s attention is for aid agencies in Africa to improve collaboration.

He explained: ‘Accurate information – for example, there are x numbers of people starving in a particular country – will mean that our public, advocatory messages can be much stronger to donors like governments and grant-giving trusts.

‘Better information-sharing and co-ordination between organisations working in those particular contexts will allow more effective comms about the scale of an emergency and the particular dynamics of a situation.’

He added: ‘PR plays a part in the wider picture in changing this problem. It is an important way of rallying public support and garnering donor and government support.’

Meanwhile, the search is on for a successor to British Red Cross head of media and PR Catherine Mahoney, who is quitting after six years. In September she takes up a newly created post as director of comms in Nairobi with the East African Flying Doctors.

One charity already trying to address the lack of attention given to Africa is Oxfam, which has recently launched its Don’t Forget Africa campaign.

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