Letter: Air-drop food into Zaire
Sir, The withdrawal of aid workers from and the cancellation of a food delivery to Zaire (reports, 27 October) highlight the risks involved when humanitarian agencies endeavour to provide food relief by conventional means to a disturbed and violent region.
Refugee camps create disease, ferment agitation, and assist in the breakdown of an already strained community.
They also serve as an easily identifiable and vulnerable focus for those who would wish harm on their inhabitants.
To provision them requires an adequate and secure airfield, a reliable and safe transport system and an unthreatened and incorruptible local labour force. All these essential elements are missing in the Great Lakes region.
Rather than persist in "soup-kitchen" solutions, aid agencies should now concentrate on air-dropping supplies to those at risk. Nutritionally enriched individual-packaged, supplementary diets exist which are both inexpensive to manufacture and cost-effective to deliver.
The proven ability to drop these accurately to needy groups does away with the necessity to uproot communities and thus keeps them both dispersed, which is safer and less disruptive, and in their villages, where they can continue to tend their crops.
Director, Leonard Cheshire Department of Conflict Recovery
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