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Beyond survival: emergency aid plants the seeds of self-reliance

18-01-1995 News Release 3

In recent years the ICRC has greatly expanded its emergency aid programmes for war victims. Emergency aid has definite limits - it merely enables the beneficiaries to survive from one day to the next - and it often encourages total dependence. Such assistance, food aid in particular, must therefore be accompanied by measures to foster self-reliance.

While hostilities are still going on, ICRC agronomists and veterinarians work with local experts to ensure that livestock survive and crops are planted. Agricultural reconstruction is the theme of a new ICRC film entitled " Beyond Survival " , which was filmed in Mozambique and Somalia.

War always has severe and lasting consequences for the civilian population. When people are forced to flee or prevented from sowing crops by fighting, the presence of mines or other threats to their safety, the cycle of food production is broken. Stocks are consumed or destroyed and food producers turn into aid recipients.

The ICRC firmly believes that reconstruction projects should begin early, before the emergency itself ends. " Food aid creates dependence " , explained Andreas Lendorff, head of the ICRC's Relief Division in Geneva. " So farmers must receive support as quickly as possible to resume their own production. And it's almost even more important that they should regain a sense of dignity. "

The film shows how, while the large-scale relief operation was under way in Somalia, the ICRC was carrying out an anti-parasite and vaccination programme that treated over 10 million camels, cattle and sheep. This led to a spectacular increase in exports, the economic lifeblood of Somalia's nomadic population. Whereas only 350,000 animals were sold abroad in 1992, the number soared in 1993 to 1.4 million, over three times as many. In Mozambique a seed distribution programme enabled entire regions to bring in harvests for the first time in years. The ICRC has meanwhile been able to hand over the programmes in both countries to other organizations.