Africa image harming aid effort, says charity Oxfam

Children in Africa Oxfam said stereotypes of Africa needed to be discarded

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A negative image of Africa in the UK is harming efforts to raise food aid in the continent, charity Oxfam has said.

It found that three out of four people had become desensitised to images showing hunger, drought and disease.

Three-quarters thought it was possible to end hunger in Africa, but just one in five believed they could play an active role in achieving it.

Of the more than 2,000 people surveyed, almost half suggested hunger as the biggest problem facing Africa.

Respondents to the survey said over-exposure to negative media and advertising portrayals of Africa and developing countries in other parts of the world was "depressing, manipulative and hopeless".

'Diversity and complexity'

Oxfam chief executive Dame Barbara Stocking said: "Oxfam has led the way in drawing attention to the plight of Africa's most vulnerable people and we aren't trying to gloss over the problems that still beset so many of them, particularly levels of malnutrition that remain stubbornly high.

"But we've come a long way since the 1980s and Band Aid's Do They Know it's Christmas? We need to shrug off the old stereotypes and celebrate the continent's diversity and complexity, which is what we are attempting with this campaign.

Start Quote

We want to make sure people have a really better balanced picture of what's happening in Africa”

End Quote Dame Barbara Stocking Oxfam chief executive

"The relentless focus on ongoing problems at the expense of a more nuanced portrait of the continent, is obscuring the progress that is being made towards a more secure and prosperous future.

"If we want people to help fight hunger we have to give them grounds for hope by showing the potential of countries across Africa - it's a natural instinct to turn away from suffering when you feel you can do nothing to alleviate it."

And when speaking to the BBC, Dame Stocking said a negative image of Africa was "not the truth" about that continent.

"Of course, there are floods, droughts, and there is conflict, but that is not in every country at all. And there are quite a number of countries now in Africa that are really doing very well.

"We want to make sure people have a really better balanced picture of what's happening in Africa. Of course we have to show what the reality is in the situations in those countries.

"But we also need to show the other places where things are actually changing, where things are different."

In a separate recent Oxfam poll, more than half of people immediately mentioned hunger, famine or poverty when speaking about Africa.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    We've said for years that this culture of handing over money at the drop of a hat isn't helping anybody, least of all Africa itself. If we want to improve peoples' lives, we can't just expect to be able to throw cash at the problem states and hope for the best. History shows that the money ends up being spent on weapons or frivolities by corrupt militia or politicians. They need THINGS, no cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    We must never stop helping anybody in need on this planet wherever they may be. To deny this is to deny the whole point of humanity and our existence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Africa and the third world doesn't need aid. It just needs rich people in the west to pay a fair price for its agricultural produce and stop living on the backs of the child workers who make all the cheap clothes sold on the high street. Africa's population doesn't threaten the planet, it's people in the west who are using up all the World's resources to support their unsustainable lifestyle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I lived in Africa for many years,and was appalled at the way NGO's spent donated monies.
    It went predominantly on their lifestyles.
    They lived like rich people,in large compounds;top of the range 4x4's;maids;gardeners;drivers;Club memberships;etc.,eating money faster than people could donate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I used to support this type of campaign but not anymore.

    When this government starts looking after its own people and keeping them out of poverty I might listen. In my area the number of people requiring food parcels etc has trebled in the last couple of years.

    I do feel sorry for these children but it is not up to the man in the street to feed and keep them alive.


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