The traditional international response to drought has been to provide humanitarian relief, in particular food aid for direct distribution. The drought of 1991-92 in Southern Africa, however, saw a change from a response that was preoccupied with direct relief, to a response that incorporated both programme food aid and programme financial aid.
Although a considerable amount of research has been done on the impact of direct relief in response to drought, very little has been done on the impact of additional programme aid. This paper puts forward the argument for programme aid as a policy
response to drought. It suggests its importance lies in the initial impact of the aid transfer, and in the additional opportunities made available by the counterpart funds to carry out strategic policy.
Programme aid can short-circuit many of the economic knock on effects of drought which contribute to destitution and a need for emergency food aid; it can help to stabilise food prices; and it can provide governments with the necessary budgetary
resources to fund drought relief programmes which are more diversified and more appropriate than the direct distribution of foreign food. The paper concludes that the effectiveness of programme aid will be determined by a particular country’scharacteristics.