Nicholas D. Kristof: Our least efforts save thousands of lives

Nick Kristof praises the US president for his action on Darfur, but laments the tardy and inadequate response to the overall situation. He pointedly asks if a mediocre effort saved so many lives, how many lives could a full and immediate international response have saved? And to those out there who seem to either dislike or even despise the United Nations, read the figures:

Even within Darfur itself, the UN World Food Program managed to get food to 1.3 million people last month out of the 2 million who need it.

Sterling work indeed. Do people still think the UN is a waste of time?

6 thoughts on “Nicholas D. Kristof: Our least efforts save thousands of lives”

  1. Hello Gavin, The U.N. needs over hauling and the World Food Programme needs to be more accountable and efficient. Last time I checked, WFP had 800 million US dollars sitting in its coffers while the UN bleated that people were dying in Darfur because of lack of funding from donors.

    The UN and WFP admitted it was too slow to respond to Darfur. Aid only started flowing in earnest when the media spotlight went on Darfur. The conflict in Darfur has been going on for 19 months now. Up until a few months ago the UN had only managed to reach 40% of those most in need. 60% were missed out because of the slow start which was followed by the (long forecasted) seasonal rains, causing WFP to use costly air drops. If it had responded when it should have done (don’t forget these people are professionals, not amateurs – they are handsomely paid) they would have reached a much higher percentage of those in most need – and at less cost. It is estimated that 10,000 people in the camps are now dying each month – 85% of those deaths are due to food shortages and disease.

    Many diseases are being spread through contaminated water bottles and too few latrines. A few months ago the UN admitted (privately) it should have set up an extra camp in Chad to house an overflow of refugees … sorry Gavin, I feel that people and countries from all over the world are donating huge sums of money in the hope and belief that it will provide food and aid in time to those who are most in need. WFP are not a bunch of boy scouts doing bob-a-jobs out of the goodness of their hearts – it’s a multi billion pound operation that needs serious attention.

    When I first started posting on Darfur back in April, the death toll was reported at 10,000. Today it officially stands at 70,000 deaths since March (the UN can’t say what happened the year before that) – others are saying 100,000 to 200,000 – USAID predicts 300,000 by December.

    Many of the deaths could have been avoided with more timely food, basic medicines and latrines. The UN Security Council is set up in such a way that countries with oil and arms interests in Sudan – ie China and Russia can block sanctions being imposed on Sudan – Sudan sees the UN as toothless …

    I would not go as far as to say the UN is a complete waste of time but I definitely believe the UN needs to reform – or be scrapped. It’s had 60 years to get its act together – enough time, don’t you think?

    PS I cannot see the point of your post giving the UN a pat on the back when the situation for the refugees is as dismal as ever. Shame on you Gavin.

    If it weren’t for many organisations like US Aid, Oxfam and other major charities and aid workers on the ground – and huge numbers of voluntary groups like MSF (Doctors Without Borders) – the lives of the refugees would be even more dire.

    Maybe you had a bit of sunstroke or something when you wrote this post patting the UN on the back for a job that has not been well done at all (in fact up until recently in Darfur they’ve failed 60%)

    Perhaps at a later date when you are more rested, you might find it in your heart to write a more constructive post on Darfur that could be more helpful to those who are suffering the most dismal lives on this planet. Thank you.

  2. My feelings are that Kofi’s your man for getting jaw exercise, but if you want anything done, there’s more international law in the marine’s bayonet than in any opinion the secretary general has ever offered. On the long road to universal peace and justice, he’s one of those Nigerian policemen who’ll stop you every few miles to stretch his palm out.

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