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The current emergency unfolding in and around Somalia is being portrayed by many aid organizations and the media in one-dimensional terms, such as “famine in the Horn of Africa” or “worst drought in 60 years”. But only blaming natural causes ignores the complex geopolitical realities exacerbating the situation and suggests that the solution lies in merely finding funds and shipping enough food to the Horn of Africa.

Since the media recently renewed its interest in the decades-old crisis in and around Somalia, we’ve seen a surge of advertisements from aid groups, featuring starving children with visible ribs and staring eyes. The subtext to these ads is that if you don’t donate, you’re abandoning these children and they will die.

Drug distribution alone isn’t enough

In the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, we should be dealing a knock-out blow. The Global Fund must call an emergency donor conference so countries can reverse these killer epidemics. By Unni Karunakara, physician and international president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

In February, during a visit to Bolivia, I had the opportunity to tour the Chagas diagnosis and treatment project that Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) runs in Narciso Campero province, located in the rural area of Cochabamba, which has one of the highest prevalences of Chagas in the country.

In Zimbabwe, there are at least 66,000 people living with HIV who face the prospect of losing their current access to lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment because of a dangerous shortfall of international funding for local treatment programs.

Earlier this month, Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino visited Burkina Faso. The visit dovetails with the government’s current matching funds program to raise aid money for the Sahel region of Africa. These efforts, laudable for their aim of helping people in need, unfortunately give an emergency-style focus on what in reality is a chronic crisis that needs long-term solutions.

By Stephen Cornish, executive director of MSF in Canada. Originally published in the National Post on May 28, 2014.

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