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Christian Aid welcomes a BBC apology to Band Aid Trust

4 November 2010

Women at the Bulki Service Cooperative get their flour weighed at the cooperative grinding mill in 1987

Christian Aid welcomes a BBC apology for broadcasting claims that much of the famine relief sent to Ethiopia in 1985 was diverted to rebel forces.

The allegation was made in a BBC World Service programme Assignment broadcast earlier this year. Christian Aid was said to be one the agencies affected.

The BBC apology was made to the Band Aid Trust, which helps relieve hunger and poverty in Ethiopia and the surrounding region.

Trustees include former BBC Director-General Michael Grade, and Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure who raised much of the aid sent to Ethiopia at the time through a series of Live Aid concerts and a chart topping record.

In retracting the claim, the BBC editorial complaints unit said the programme failed to make clear the extent to which the evidence of the person making the allegation, a former rebel fighter, was 'open to question'.

Welcoming the apology, Christian Aid's Director of Advocacy and Communication Jude Mackenzie said: 'The allegation, which was amplified on the BBC website and in other programmes, suggested money had been wasted.

'Reinforcing such attitudes is damaging and has the potential to cost lives. The BBC climb down is welcome.

'Aid agencies should not be above public scrutiny - far from it - but the evidence the programme presented to back up its claims was hugely questionable. In addition, the stringent efforts Christian Aid and other agencies undertake, both then and now, to ensure aid reaches the right people were completely ignored.'

Delivering life-saving aid in the form of food, water and shelter is usually a challenging task, she added. When disaster strikes, whether caused by nature or the effects of war, key infrastructure and institutions usually suffer, with problems exacerbated by some people seeking to take advantage of the desperation of others.

Christian Aid, however, always channels the funds it raises through partner organisations, which are already based in the country where the disaster has struck. Before agreeing to the partnership, Christian Aid investigates to ensure that the organisation is genuine and competent. The investigation includes face to face interviews and independent audits of accounts. 

In addition, during any programme of work Christian Aid staff visit the area where work is being undertaken and meet with local people to ensure the aid is appropriate.

There is meticulous documentation of where the money goes, whether to buy emergency food rations or set up drinking water and sanitation facilities, so tracking where the vital funds we raise are used is straightforward.

Independent, objective evaluations are also conducted to review what has been achieved and to learn lessons.


Further information

Christian Aid's response to the accusations in March 2010

Apology on the BBC website 

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