FP: Yet even with those programs in place, the populations in the Horn are already going hungry again; an estimated 8 million people are already food insecure, which is about what it was last year at this time. In total, USAID's famine-monitoring agency projects 13 countries with serious hunger problems this year. Only five of them recently suffered war or natural disaster. Most of the problem is chronic poverty. It seems lots of resources go into dealing with the emergency situation at the last minute and not enough into dealing with the underlying issues. How do we break the cycle?
RS: For too long, development and emergency intervention had been thought of as separate things. We're now working with critical partners like the World Bank and others to create this field of resilience, planning, and investment. For decades, there has been a tendency to think of development as urban industrialization or things of that nature and not recognize that agricultural development, pastoral-community resilience, and building on people's existing risk-management systems are as critical to moving people out of poverty.
FP: If I go back to countries with hunger crises like Kenya and Ethiopia and Guatemala and the Sahel this summer, am I going to see something different than I saw last year and the years before?
RS: I don't want to promise. It wouldn't be honest or realistic to expect the phase of poverty and vulnerability to change in a one-year, two-year time frame. But the track record is that if we stay focused and if we persist with the approach, we have the opportunity to help tens of millions of people move out of that condition of vulnerability.
Look, I wished it happened faster, and I could sit here and guarantee that people won't be worse off next year. But I can't do that. I just have to stay committed to making sure we measure results, we do the things that we believe are correlated with creating the same systems that are effective over time. And that even though it's hard, we bring that kind of business-like approach to this work and do the best we can to help ensure that we're not just putting band-aids on problems but we're actually solving them. Because ultimately, solving them is in our deep national interest.