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LETTER:Tackling famine post-Geldof

From Mr Ted Edmundson

Sir: Bob Geldof and his friends did a great job orchestrating our response to one of Africa's cases ("Where are you now, Bob Geldof?", 12 July). We are still moved by the compelling sight of a starving child. Sadly, our Band Aid response often turns out to be a sticking-plaster solution, leaving underlying problems untouched.

Development is a long-term process, measured by generations rather than four-year aid project cycles or tenth anniversaries of famine fund-raising events. We must not let our natural humanitarian response to the recurring crises in Africa deflect us from long-term efforts to tackle the ignorance that is at the root of poverty and misery, in Africa as elsewhere.

Part of any strategy must be help to those basic institutions involved in the education and training of people. This is where aid can and does make a vital difference. Tackling illiteracy and allowing access to information encourages the development of a free press, and accountability of local government and politicians. Teaching a mother about nutrition and healthcare for her child, helping a local farmer produce more through improved techniques, giving students from developing countries access to our education and research facilities - all have an impact. Progress is taking place, but it does not grab the headlines.

The UK government must remain engaged in Africa in such long-term sustainable development, building on partnerships already established. We should also insist that European aid funds focus more on helping people develop, rather than on capital projects or economic restructuring.

Yours faithfully,

Ted Edmundson


Development & Training Services

British Council


13 July