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Food Aid in Response to Acute Food Insecurity

  • Christopher B. Barrett

    (Cornell University)

This paper reviews the role of food aid in response to humanitarian emergencies. It outlines a set of basic principles for effective food aid interventions, and analyses a number of case studies in humanitarian response. The paper distinguishes between rapid onset and slow onset emergencies and between ‘idiosyncratic’ emergencies affecting individuals or households and ‘covariate’ emergencies affecting entire communities or countries. The lead-time afforded by slow-onset emergencies could be – but usually is not – used to mount early interventions aimed at averting full-scale disasters. Emergency response is too heavily dominated by food aid, especially aid sourced in donor countries, to the neglect of more effective and less costly interventions. What’s more, idiosyncratic shocks are usually overlooked in humanitarian response. The paper draws a number of ‘lessons learned’ from recent experience with different types of humanitarian emergencies. It argues that emergency food aid is often a necessary part of humanitarian response to acute food insecurity, but it is rarely sufficient.

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Paper provided by Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA) in its series Working Papers with number 06-10.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fao:wpaper:0610
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  1. Dasgupta, Partha, 1997. "Nutritional status, the capacity for work, and poverty traps," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 5-37, March.
  2. Michael Carter & Christopher Barrett, 2006. "The economics of poverty traps and persistent poverty: An asset-based approach," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 178-199.
  3. Lawrence Haddad & Stuart Gillespie, 2001. "Effective food and nutrition policy responses to HIV|AIDS: what we know and what we need to know," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 487-511.
  4. Santos, Paulo & Barrett, Christopher B., 2006. "Informal Insurance in the Presence of Poverty Traps: Evidence from Southern Ethiopia," 2006 Annual Meeting, August 12-18, 2006, Queensland, Australia 25487, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  5. John Hoddinott, 2006. "Shocks and their consequences across and within households in Rural Zimbabwe," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 301-321.
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