Once an emergency is identified, [said Tony Vaux, a former official with Oxfam], the NGOs' public relations machine takes over and "there is a terrible temptation to look around for the very worst stories".
"My concern about this is you either have an aid bonanza or you have nothing. There does not seem to be a middle ground," says Mr Vaux, author of the book The Selfish Altruist.
One problem with dramatic appeals, [Professor William Easterly of New York University] notes, is that they do not give you a big bang for your aid buck.
"The payoff is disappointingly low," he says. Getting the relief effort up and running takes time, and when the food arrives it is often too late - or the crisis has eased on its own, as appears to be the case in Niger.
Emergency aid may relieve the situation - but the same amount spent before children starved in front of the cameras would have saved many more lives.
August 26, 2005
The unfortunate dynamics of hunger relief:
Posted by Ann Althouse at 8:26 AM