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Secondly, Third World countries may have an
element of corruption or inefficiency to their adminis-
tration. The corruption, if it exists, may lead to relief
aid being siphoned off for export, ransom or sale on the
black market. Finally, inefficient administrations may
slow the relief aid with paper work or be unaware that
relief aid is even necessary.
By far one of the biggest 'flops' to occur for these
reasons was the international aid effort for the
Sudanese drought of 1984-1985. This drought was
the first in Sudan to be predicted and prepared for
before its occurrence. In the previous two years,
Ethiopia had been wracked by drought that went
virtually unnoticed for a year, and was then exposed on
British television. The Ethiopian drought generated
considerable attention about why it had occurred, and
how relief was getting through to the people. It
became a foregone conclusion that the drought was
spreading westward and would eventually enter Sudan,
a country that had magnanimously permitted over
1 million Ethiopian refugees to cross its borders for
relief aid. The management of the Ethiopian famine
was a disaster in itself. As it had in 1975, the Ethiopian
government at first failed to admit that it had a famine
problem, mainly because the drought was centered
in rebellious northern provinces. It continued to sell
garden produce to other countries instead of diverting
food and produce to the relief camps that had been
set up or had spontaneously appeared. Authorities
deliberately strafed columns of refugees fleeing the
drought-affected areas and allowed relief aid to pile up
in its eastern ports. At the same time, an enormous
sum of money was spent to dress up the capital for a
meeting of African nations.
The United States government recognized these
problems and decided that a similar situation would
not hinder relief aid for the impending drought in
Sudan. It pledged over $US400 million worth of food
aid and set about overcoming the distribution problem,
which consisted in getting the food from Port Sudan on
the Red Sea to the western part of Sudan, which was
isolated at the edge of the Sahara Desert. The United
States hired consultants to evaluate the distribution
problem, and it was decided to use the railway between
Port Sudan and Kosti, or El-Obeid, to ship grain west
before the onset of the rainy season. The grain would
then be distributed westward using trucks. The United
States went so far as to warn the residents of the
western part of Sudan that a drought was coming, and
that food aid would be brought to their doorstep.
The inhabitants of that part of the country were not
encouraged to migrate eastward. Thus, there was going
to be no repeat of the large and deadly migrations that
occurred in Ethiopia.
However, no one assessed the Sudanese railway
system's ability to handle transportation of such a large
volume of grain. In fact, scrapped trains in western
countries were in better shape than those operating on
the Sudanese railway system. A decision was made to
repair the railway, but inefficiencies delayed this for
months. Finally, it was decided to move the food for
most of the distance by truck. No one had evaluated the
trucking industry in the Sudan. The operation absorbed
most of the trucks in the country. The local truck drivers,
realizing they now had a monopoly, went on strike for
higher wages. By the time the railway and trucking
difficulties were overcome, the drought was well-
established, and few if any people had migrated to the
east. They were now starving. When the transport
situation was sorted out, the rains set in, and many trucks
became bogged on mud tracks or while attempting to
ford impassable rivers, or hopelessly broken down.
Meanwhile, grain supplies were rotting in the open
staging areas in the east, because no one had considered
the possibility that the grain would still be undistributed
when the rainy season broke the drought.
The decision was finally made to airlift food supplies
into remote areas using Hercules aircraft, a decision
that increased transport costs fourfold. But this was not
the end of the story. The rains made it impossible for
the planes to land, and there was no provision to
parachute supplies to the ground. Like sheep in an
Australian flood awaiting airdropped bales of hay, the
starving inhabitants of west Sudan waited for bags of
grain to be airdropped. The Hercules would fly as low
and as slowly as possible, as bags of grain were shoved
out without any parachutes to slow them down. The
bags tumbled to the ground, bounced and broke,
scattering their contents. The Sudanese then raced on
foot to the scene to salvage whatever grain they could
before it was completely spoilt in the mud.
(Geldof, 1986)
Without Bob Geldof there would have been no Band
Aid or Live Aid: his name is now synonymous with
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