The famine in the Horn of Africa used be blame mainly for the drought caused by the global climate change ignoring the pricipla culprit the the dictatorial regime. In the past the same has brought regime change in country of hunger Ethiopia two times, that of the Negus in 1974 and the Derg Military Junta in 1991. As the French says there is no two without three, we expecting a regime change in the country since all conditions are meeting as those of the last two experiences due to the starvation in Wello in 1974 and in Tigre in 1984 which cost the lives of millions in the past. The main culprit for this in human repeated catastrophe this day has been mainly given to the extreme weather conditions demonstrated by hurricanes, floods, droughts all over the globe.
The current drought conditions have been caused by successive seasons with very low rainfall due to wanton construction of the dams all over Ethiopia by the dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawie. Over the past decade the Horn of Africa has experienced consecutive failed rainy seasons having direct co-correlation in this period of intensification of damming in the region. According to surveys of local communities, this is part of a long-term shift as seen in Borana communities in Ethiopia report that whereas droughts were recorded every six to eight years in the past, they now occur every one to two years since the construction of dams in Omo and Shebelle rivers.
Today’s rainfall projections are unclear. Most modeling, as reflected in the IPCC’s last assessment, suggests more rain will fall in the east Africa region as a whole, with an increase in “heavy events” (sudden downpours, so more flood risk). However, some recent studies suggest rainfall will decrease, particularly in the long rains. To reverse the trend the regional governments must stop wanton damming and wasteful irrigation likes that of Sudan and Ethiopia. According to IPCC’s last assessment, suggests more rain will fall in the east Africa region as a whole, with an increase in “heavy events” (sudden downpours, so more flood risk). However, some recent studies suggest rainfall will decrease, particularly in the long rains.
Since the construction of the Mega dams in the Southern Ethiopia the regional meteorological data supported the argument by demonstrating the increase of the annual temperatures from 1960-2006 by 1C in Kenya and 1.3C in Ethiopia, and the frequency of hot days is increasing in both countries in the region of the dams. However, more recent research suggests that rainfall decreased in the rainy seasons of March to June. When it comes to records and data collections like Europe and America climate change could not be attributed to the Horn of Africa’s drought, since t the current drought is directly climate change. True, there are now a few cases in which scientists have been able to estimate the extent to which man-made climate change has made a particular extreme weather event more likely, but these exercises require reliable long-term weather data that only exists for Europe and North America – no such studies as yet exist in the case of the current drought.
What about the future? Globally, climate change modeling projects an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like droughts and floods. In the absence of urgent action to slash global greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in the region will probably increase by 3C-4C by 2080-99 relative to 1980-99. The combination of higher temperatures and more unpredictable rains is alarming for food production. In a recent estimate horn of Africa could suffer a decline in the length of the growing period for key crops of up to 20% by the end of the century, with the productivity of beans falling by nearly 50% if the dictatorial regimes continue letting land grabbing and disfranchising the local family hold farmers and pastoralist for the sake of this international speculators. More over, the dam is prepared for these grabbed lands irrigation for an eventual cash crop cultivation of exportation.
According Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen that drought is caused by lack of rainfall, famine is man-made, and thus famines do not occur in functioning democracies.
Melese Zenawie the genocidal dictator of Ethiopia came to power in 1991 baying arms with the money collected by Band Aid in mid 80’s. In 2010 he used famine aid money to intimidate the voters to maintain his power for life. Read here under how Band Aid tried to justify how he makes million on the back of million Ethiopian Dry Bones making discs. Bob Guldof and his group must face international investigation on his complicity with African dictator to suppress the famines. Surely he will face the international court of justice with his complicit Melese Zenawie.
Since a criminal comes back on his crime scene, Melse and Bob Guldof continue cheating the whole world. One keeps his powers the other continuing his so called “Band Aid “to perpetuate the starving millions in misery. His disc was in bankrupt in mid 80′ when band Aid ingeniously saved him rather than the dying millions supposedly helped.
(London) – The Ethiopian government is using development aid to suppress political dissent by conditioning access to essential government programs on support for the ruling party, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged foreign donors to ensure that their aid is used in an accountable and transparent manner and does not support political repression.
“The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent,” said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If you don’t play the ruling party’s game, you get shut out. Yet foreign donors are rewarding this behavior with ever-larger sums of development aid.”
Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of development aid, more than US$3 billion in 2008 alone. The World Bank and donor nations provide direct support to district governments in Ethiopia for basic services such as health, education, agriculture, and water, and support a “food-for-work” program for some of the country’s poorest people. The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the largest bilateral donors.
Local officials routinely deny government support to opposition supporters and civil society activists, including rural residents in desperate need of food aid. Foreign aid-funded “capacity-building” programs to improve skills that would aid the country’s development are used by the government to indoctrinate school children in party ideology, intimidate teachers, and purge the civil service of people with independent political views.
Political repression was particularly pronounced during the period leading up to parliamentary elections in May 2010, in which the ruling party won 99.6 percent of the seats.
The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent. If you don’t play the ruling party’s game, you get shut out. Yet foreign donors are rewarding this behavior with ever-larger sums of development aid.(Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch)
Despite government restrictions that make independent research difficult, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 200 people in 53 villages across three regions of the country during a six-month investigation in 2009. The problems Human Rights Watch found were widespread: residents reported discrimination in many locations.
Farmers described being denied access to agricultural assistance, micro-loans, seeds, and fertilizers because they did not support the ruling party. As one farmer in Amhara region told Human Rights Watch, “[Village] leaders have publicly declared that they will single out opposition members, and those identified as such will be denied ‘privileges.’ By that they mean that access to fertilizers, ‘safety net’ and even emergency aid will be denied.”
Rural villagers reported that many families of opposition members were barred from participation in the food-for-work or “safety net” program, which supports 7 million of Ethiopia’s most vulnerable citizens. Scores of opposition members who were denied services by local officials throughout the country reported the same response from ruling party and government officials when they complained: “Ask your own party for help.”
Human Rights Watch also documented how high school students, teachers, and civil servants were forced to attend indoctrination sessions on ruling party ideology as part of the capacity-building program funded by foreign governments. Attendees at training sessions reported that they were intimidated and threatened if they did not join the ruling party. Superiors told teachers that ruling party membership was a condition for promotion and training opportunities. Education, especially schools and teacher training, is also heavily supported by donor funds.
“By dominating government at all levels, the ruling party controls all the aid programs,” Peligal said. “Without effective, independent monitoring, international aid will continue to be abused to consolidate a repressive single-party state.”
In 2005, the World Bank and other donors suspended direct budget support to the Ethiopian government following a post-election crackdown on demonstrators that left 200 people dead, 30,000 detained, and dozens of opposition leaders in jail. At the time, donors expressed fears of “political capture” of donor funds by the ruling party.
Yet aid was soon resumed under a new program, “Protection of Basic Services,” that channeled money directly to district governments. These district governments, like the federal administration, are under ruling party control, yet are harder to monitor and more directly involved in day-to-day repression of the population.
During this period the Ethiopian government has steadily closed political space, harassed independent journalists and civil society activists into silence or exile, and violated the rights to freedom of association and expression. A new law on civil society activity, passed in 2009, bars nongovernmental organizations from working on issues related to human rights, good governance, and conflict resolution if they receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources.
“The few independent organizations that monitored human rights have been eviscerated by government harassment and a pernicious new civil society law,” Peligal said. “But these groups are badly needed to ensure aid is not misused.”
As Ethiopia’s human rights situation has worsened, donors have ramped up assistance. Between 2004 and 2008, international development aid to Ethiopia doubled. According to Ethiopian government data, the country is making strong progress on reducing poverty, and donors are pleased to support Ethiopia’s progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Yet the price of that progress has been high.
When Human Rights Watch presented its findings to donor officials, many privately acknowledged the worsening human rights situation and the ruling party’s growing authoritarian rule. Donor officials from a dozen Western government agencies told Human Rights Watch that they were aware of allegations that donor-supported programs were being used for political repression, but they had no way of knowing the extent of such abuse. In Ethiopia, most monitoring of donor programs is a joint effort alongside Ethiopian government officials.
Yet few donors have been willing to raise their concerns publicly over the possible misuse of their taxpayers’ funds. In a desk study and an official response to Human Rights Watch, the donor consortium Development Assistance Group stated that their monitoring mechanisms showed that their programs were working well and that aid was not being “distorted.” But no donors have carried out credible, independent investigations into the problem.
Human Rights Watch called on donor country legislatures and audit institutions to examine development aid to Ethiopia to ensure that it is not supporting political repression.
“In their eagerness to show progress in Ethiopia, aid officials are shutting their eyes to the repression lurking behind the official statistics,” Peligal said. “Donors who finance the Ethiopian state need to wake up to the fact that some of their aid is contributing to human rights abuses.”
Background Led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party is a coalition of ethnic-based groups that came to power in 1991 after ousting the military government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The government passed a new constitution in 1994 that incorporated fundamental human rights standards, but in practice many of these freedoms have been increasingly restricted during its 19 years in power.
Although the ruling party introduced multiparty elections soon after it came to power in 1991, opposition political parties have faced serious obstruction to their efforts to establish offices, organize, and campaign in national and local elections.
Eight-five percent of Ethiopia’s population live in rural areas and, each year, 10 to 20 percent rely on international food relief to survive. Foreign development assistance to Ethiopia has steadily increased since the 1990s, with a temporary plateau during the two-year border war with Eritrea (1998-2000). Ethiopia is now the largest recipient of World Bank funds and foreign aid in Africa.
In 2008, total aid was US$3.3 billion. Of that, the United States contributes around $800 million, much of it in humanitarian and food aid; the European Union contributes $400 million; and the United Kingdom provides $300 million. Ethiopia is widely considered to be making good progress toward some of the UN Millennium Development Goals on reducing poverty, but much of the data originates with the government and is not independently verified.
Quotes from the Report
“There are micro-loans, which everybody goes to take out, but it is very difficult for us, [opposition] members. They say, ‘This is not from your government, it is from the government you hate. Why do you expect something from the government that you hate?'”
– A farmer from southern Ethiopia
“Yesterday in fact the kebele [village] chairman said to me, ‘You are suffering so many problems, why don’t you write a letter of regret and join the ruling party?'”
– A farmer with a starving child from southern Ethiopia, denied participation in the safety net food-for-work program”The safety net is used to buy loyalty to the ruling party. That is money that comes from abroad. Democracy is being compromised by money that comes from abroad. Do those people who send the money know what it is being used for? Let them know that it is being used against democracy.”
– A farmer from Amhara region”It is clear that our money is being moved into political brainwashing.”
– Consultant to a major donor, Addis Ababa”Intimidation is all over, in every area. There is politicization of housing, business, education, agriculture. Many of the people are forced or compromised to join the party because of safety net and so on, many do not have a choice – it is imposed.”
– Western donor official, Addis Ababa”Every tool at their disposal – fertilizer, loans, safety net – is being used to crush the opposition. We know this.”
– Senior Western donor official, Addis Ababa”Which state are we building and how? It could be that we are building the capacity of the state to control and repress.”
– World Bank staff member, Addis Ababa
Ethiopia used aid to bribe voters – Human Right Wach
Aid was denied to those known who belong to opposition parties, Human Rights Watch found
Ethiopia’s government has been withholding foreign aid from opposition supporters, Human Rights Watch says.
Its report urged donors to ensure their aid was distributed transparently.
Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipient of development aid – in 2008 international donations to the country totalled $3bn (£1.8bn).
Its government has not yet commented on the report but has rejected similar accusations in the past as “ridiculous and outrageous”.
BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says this leaves donors in a dilemma because they are reluctant to turn off the taps as they feel this would reverse the gains.
In May, Ethiopia’s governing party trounced the opposition in elections – only one opposition MP was elected in the 536-seat parliament.
In contrast, the opposition won more than 170 seats and swept the board in the capital, Addis Ababa in the previous election, in 2005.
However, they said they had been cheated of victory and organised street protests.
Nearly 200 opposition supporters and several policemen were killed and a comprehensive crackdown on the opposition followed, with politicians and supporters jailed.
Many analysts suggest the muzzling of the opposition was a major factor behind the governing party’s sweep to victory in May.
Our correspondent says the government has worked hard to deliver services to the population.
But Human Rights Watch accuses the donors of focusing only on the development and ignoring the repression as they continue to pour money into the country.
“If independent NGOs were allowed to work, civil society was allowed to play its role and international NGOs were allowed to distribute directly to Ethiopian citizens then you would cut out the pernicious role that the state is playing,” Mr Rawlence said.
He said that Ethiopia now was one of the most repressive societies in the world.
“People were very, very scared about talking to me – they would only do so in safe-houses,” he said.
A new version of the Band Aid song Do They Know It’s Christmas? and a DVD of the Live Aid concert are expected to be big sellers in the festive season. Where is the money going?
No. The bottom line is at least £2.43 from each £3.99 CD single is going to charity, but it may rise to £3.53.
Record company Mercury and the Band Aid Trust say £1.83 goes straight to charity. Another 60p will be paid in VAT then refunded to the Trust by the government.
Record shops would normally keep a £1.10 slice. But most big chains – including HMV, Virgin Megastores, Woolworths, Tesco, WH Smith and Sainsbury’s – have agreed to give their profits to charity.
But it is not as simple as giving £1.10 back per CD. Shops have bought huge quantities from Mercury and need to sell enough to cover those costs before breaking even.
Only then would any profit go to charity – so the more copies sold, the more likelihood there is of shops making a profit, and the higher that amount is likely to be.
The other 46p in the £3.99 covers the record company’s essential costs – such as manufacturing, labels and distribution, which are all done by the company itself. Mercury is not making any profit from the CD.
But lots of people who would normally be paid have given their time and effort for free – from the singers and musicians themselves to PR people, artwork designers, shops that have done marketing activities and TV stations and magazines who have donated advertising space.
What about internet downloads and mobile phone ringtones?
The new version of Do They Know It’s Christmas? is being sold for £1.49 to download, or for £1.99 they will throw in the original 1984 version too.
But unlike CD singles, there is no manufacture and delivery process so almost every penny goes to charity. The same goes for ringtones, with telephone companies giving most proceeds to charity.
How much will be raised for charity?
If a million copies of the CD are sold, the total proceeds going to charity, including funds from downloads and ringtones, could be about £3m – depending on where they were bought.
What about the Live Aid DVD?
1. £1.83 - straight to Band Aid Trust charity 2. 60p - VAT to be given to charity by government 3. £1.10 Retailer's cut. How much goes to charity depends on the retailer and how many are sold 4. 46p - Record company costs eg manufacture, distribution
As with the single, the full price you pay does not go to charity – but it is impossible to say exactly how much does.
A DVD of the 1985 Live Aid concert has just been released
Warner Vision International won a bidding war for the rights to release the 1985 concert for the first time, paying an unspecified but “huge” sum in the millions, they say, to the Band Aid Trust.
On top of that, they are paying an “above-standard royalty rate” that will go up as sales increase.
Record shops and other retailers are taking some of their cut. They pay up to £27 per four-disc set and would normally keep the difference between that and the price fans pay. But shops are believed to be making an unspecified “fixed contribution” to charity for each DVD sold.
Internet retailers are the cheapest, selling the DVD for £27.99, with prices elsewhere rising to the recommended retail price of £39.99.
What will the charity money be used for?
The Band Aid Trust has been going since the original single was released, handing out $144m (£75m) to famine relief projects across Africa between January 1985 and November 2004.
The Band Aid Trust has been funding projects in Africa since 1985,Bob Geldof in Ethiopia in 1985
Of the latest money raised, a Band Aid statement said: “These funds are distributed to various organisations that implement sustainable projects aimed at relieving poverty and hunger in Ethiopia and the surrounding area via a funding process.
“This involves inviting organisations to submit proposals to the trustees for consideration – those projects that meet the Trust’s objectives and the approval of the trustees are funded.
“The progress of each project is monitored by the trustees through the receipt of regular reports from each of the charity organisations funded.”
Ethiopia is indexed among 25 hungry countries where over 53 % children are stunted, while in Eritrea more than 50 % are starving according to IFPRI.
Ethiopia Ranked the worst among the 25 least to greatest levels of hunger, they included: Nepal, Tanzania, Cambodia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Djibouti, Mozambique, India, Bangladesh, Liberia, Zambia, Timor-Leste, Niger, Angola, Yemen, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, the Comoros, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia.
Eritrea figured among the most alarming countries with Congo DR & Chad.
‘Alarming’ numbers go hungry in 25 countries including Ethiopia due to poverty, conflict, and political instability causing some billion people to go hungry this year, many of them children in Africa and Asia, according to the Global Hunger Index of 11th of October, 2010.
Out of 122 countries included in the annual report, of IFPRI, Ethiopia & Eritrea are among 25 hungry countries where 53 % children are stunted & More than 50 % are starving.
The Ethiopian and Eritrean poor governance and lack of political interest in nutrition, and stimulating demand is the main reason of the problem. Both countries do not have the necessary infrastructure to meet increased demand for health care and other services that go hand-in-hand with anti-hunger programs,
The overall number of hungry people surpassed one billion in 2009, even though it decreased to 925 million in 2010. Over 20 billion is from Ethiopia not shown in the index.
Though the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fared the worst in the hunger index, which is based on data from 2003-2008, the 2009 and 2013 which is not covered by the IFPR will put surely Ethiopia among the extreme situation despite the double score economic growth announced t by the dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawie.
The index ranked countries on a 100-point scale, with zero being the best score—no hunger—and 100 being the worst. A score higher than 20 indicated “alarming” levels of hunger and above 30, “extremely alarming” hunger.
The DRC was the only country in this year’s index with a score above 40.
The other three countries with extremely alarming hunger levels were Burundi, Eritrea, and Chad. All have been involved in simmering or open conflict for many years.
With the exception of Haiti and Yemen, all 25 countries with “alarming” levels of hunger were in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia.
According to IFPRI’ Report the Sub-Saharan Africa situation is described as:
2010 Global Hunger Index: Facts and Findings: Sub-Saharan Africa
Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Eritrea have the greatest levels of hunger.
Angola, Chad, and Somalia have the highest under-five mortality rates at 20 percent or more.
More than 50 percent of people in Burundi, the Comoros, the DRC, and Eritrea are undernourished.
In Burundi, Madagascar, and Malawi, 53 percent of children are stunted (low height for their age); in Ethiopia and Rwanda, the figure stands at 51 percent; and in Niger, 47 percent of children are stunted.
More than one-third (34 percent) of Mali’s children are stunted, and 11 percent suffer from wasting (low weight for one’s height). Stunting levels were nearly the same in 1996, and the prevalence of wasting has more than doubled.
Based on the 1990 and 2010 GHI scores, the DRC has experienced the greatest deterioration in hunger, largely because of conflict and political instability. The DRC also has the highest proportion of undernourished people—three-quarters of the population—and one of the highest child mortality rates in the world.
Three over half of the population in Ethiopia and Eritrea is under-nourished. The proportion of undernourished people and the child mortality rate in each country were among two of the three factors used to compile the index.
According to the report’s co-author Marie Ruel, director of IFPRI’s Poverty, Health and Nutrition division “the third, the prevalence of underweight children, is the most important to address when trying to wrestle down hunger in a country because it accounts for nearly half the global hunger score.” And she further stressed on the child food security which is 51% of the case in Ethiopia Ruel confirmed that:
“In order to improve their hunger index, countries have to accelerate efforts to reduce child under-nutrition,” with a particular focus on the 1,000 days from conception to the age of two.
“Those 1,000 days… are a key time because damage done by under-nutrition in early life is largely irreversible.”
Adding to the above confirmation that :- “a child is not properly nourished during that period, there is “absolutely cast-iron, empirical proof” it will have “profound” long-term consequences, which ultimately going to have an impact on a country’s capacity to grow economically and socially in the future,” Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide affirmed.
Hunger mitigation programs that failed to focus on children under put Ethiopia “alarming” hunger index despite its relatively high gross domestic product per capita claimed by the dictatorial regime who blow up the growth.
Yet the true progress was found elsewhere, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America, which both slashed their hunger indices by more than 40 percent since 1990.
Eight of the nine countries in which the hunger index went up between 1990 and 2010 were in sub-Saharan Africa mostly in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The 2010 Global Hunger Index (GHI) offers a useful and multidimensional overview of global hunger while the two countries of the horn of Africa boasted as fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 (MDGs).
In case of Ethiopia after the 1980s Bob Guldof’s detoured Band Aid experience all the relief must be given directly to the people. One must not even address the rebels since they will take the starving population as a hostage as a means to win the war. When it comes to the government who is the main cause of the famine itself will use food to punish those who are not loyal or voting for him. In either case we have learned from the last 40 years experience that Aid must be directly delivered to the population suffering. We think also this the only methodology to be applied as a principle in any relief distributions in any country like Ethiopia known as mainstay of government instigated famine and conflict.
The actual government in Ethiopia made its way to power by robbing relief and Aid from the starving population and buying guns instead. Today in power continues to benefit from the international aid to use it to maintain itself in power and dump the money in the international fiscal paradises across the pacific. Still today those part of the population who are not the same ethnic group as the group in power or others who are not pro government groups will starve to death.
When a natural disaster hits a country a like Chile and Haiti the national infrastructure is also damaged and most of the avenues of delivery are closed. In the last case the international organizations must directly deliver to the people first and then help the government re habilitate itself but not on the back of the starving population. We must not forget that the government was suppose to work for the people a not the vice versa.
Should you consider your feelings about a country’s government when deciding to donate to disaster relief?
A decision to donate towards disaster relief will be determined by a number of factors, but support or otherwise for the government of the country affected, should not be one of them.
Modern worldwide news coverage can bring details of disasters right to the heart of our living rooms. Reporters, photographers and their producers are adept at being in the right place at the right time, sometimes regardless of their own personal safety, and through their skill and courage we are made aware of the personal tragedies which may unfold after a disaster.
The quality and empathy shown in such reporting can be a decisive first element in a decision to donate. Michael Buerk’s report for the BBC in 1984, from famine torn Ethiopia, led to a sudden awareness of the horrors unfolding and a tremendous outpouring of generosity from ordinary people.
We see the needs of those affected – housing, food, water, medical supplies, clothing, warmth, etc., etc. and we feel unable, in all conscience, to not donate towards their relief.
But do we pause to consider the government of the country affected? We may, but this should not affect our decision. It will not be the government which has caused the problem, and it may be doing all it can in the most difficult of circumstances.
Were we to consider that we do not support the government personally, perhaps because it is too extreme, or because it has a reputation for corruption, should this affect our decision to donate? I hope not. The people most affected by a tragedy will need help whatever their government does or does not do, and the less effective the government is, the more those people need our help.
Many examples come to mind. The Haitian government was in no position, for a variety of reasons, to offer organised assistance following the earthquake there. Does that mean we should not give? After the Armenian earthquake in the early 90s, people sat around waiting to be told what to do, the communist regime of several generations having removed their ability to decide for themselves. Does that mean we should not have given?
And, closer to home, the American government’s failure to act quickly and decisively when New Orleans needed so much help appalled people throughout the world. But should this have affected whether people donated or not? Again, I hope not.
The Hazards Of Doing Good
From Live Aid in the mid-1980s to today, Western attempts to help famine-plagued Ethiopia have had little effect. Peter Gill explains why in “Famine and Foreigners.” William Easterly reviews.
If it were possible to sum up in one sentence Ethiopia’s struggles with famine over the past quarter-century, I’d suggest this: It’s not the rains, it’s the rulers. As Peter Gill makes clear in “Famines and Foreigners,” his well-turned account of the country’s miseries since the 1984-85 famine and the Live Aid concert meant to relieve it, drought has not been as devastating to Ethiopians as their own autocratic governments.
Ethiopia is a classic example of Amartya Sen’s dictum that famines don’t occur in democracies, only under tyrannies. The “foreigners” in Mr. Gill’s story either didn’t know about this sad fact of life or chose to ignore it. In any case, the celebrities and humanitarians who rushed to the aid of starving Ethiopians in the mid-1980s unwittingly supported the very people most responsible for those grim days.
he Derg, the brutal Marxist junta running Ethiopia at the time, contributed to the 1984 famine by forcing farmers to sell crops to the state at low prices. Many farmers instead consumed much of what they grew. The tradition of Ethiopians in areas with surplus food selling it to those in famine-stricken areas was thus disrupted.
The Derg, who had come to power in the mid-1970s after a famine discredited Emperor Haile Selassie, further exacerbated the country’s hunger problems with a military campaign—against rebels from the Tigrayan region in the north—that deliberately targeted food production and trade. A government official said at the time: “Food is a major element in our strategy against the secessionists.”
And then the Derg forced people to resettle in the southern lowlands from the parched northern highlands, partly in an effort to undermine the recruiting efforts of the Tigrayan rebels. One instrument of coercion: the relief supplies sent by well-meaning foreigners. The Derg denied food and medicine to anyone who refused to resettle. The refugees arriving in the lowlands found unfamiliar diseases and unsanitary conditions. The veteran aid writer Alex de Waal, assessing this era in Ethiopia, concluded: “Resettlement certainly killed people at a faster rate than the famine.” The aid also allowed the government to reduce its own spending on the domestic emergency and instead buy imported arms, which amounted to billions of dollars at the height of the famine. It took until 1991 for the guerrilla alliance to finally oust the regime.
Fast-forward to the present: Although Stalinist Marxism is done, not much else has changed. The former Tigrayan rebels, led by Meles Zenawi, now rule Ethiopia. The country’s agriculture remains in what Mr. Gill calls “a state of almost permanent crisis.” A famine in the south in 2000 escaped much international notice while the government was busy prosecuting a war against neighboring Eritrea. In 2008, the Ethiopian army conducted a counterinsurgency campaign in the south, attempting to put down a rebellion in its Somali region amid a food crisis there. Human Rights Watch accused Mr. Meles’s forces of “demonstration killings,” torture, torching villages—in sum, “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Mr. Gill captures the brutality of the Meles regime, but he does not say as much as he might about the government’s failure to address Ethiopia’s perpetual food shortages. He supportively describes Mr. Meles’s decision to continue the Derg’s policy of government ownership of all land. One searches in vain for a suggestion that letting farmers own their land might be a good idea, giving them incentives to prevent erosion and invest in soil fertility.
Mr. Meles’s authoritarian stripes make life awkward for Westerners who want to aid Ethiopians. Mr. Gill quotes Mr. Meles’s writings on the “developmental state,” which conveniently for the ruler “will have to be undemocratic in order to stay in power long enough to carry out successful development.” Elections in 2005 were almost certainly rigged, and critics were jailed in the aftermath. Public protests were suppressed, with hundreds killed. Mr. Gill speaks to a source “surprisingly close to government” who tells him that security forces opened fire “deliberately to show who was in charge.”
The timing could not have been worse. In 2005, Mr. Meles was also serving on British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission on Africa, a high-profile panel whose report called for increased aid to Africa. The G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July 2005 was focused on Africa—particularly in response to the Blair commission’s report. The Live 8 concerts held at that time were an homage to the Live Aid concert two decades earlier and aimed at mobilizing public pressure for the G8 to indeed increase African aid.
Yet few reporters covering the G8 summit, and surely few members of the Live 8 concert audiences around the world, seemed to grasp the key role played by Mr. Meles, an autocrat who had just rigged an election, killed demonstrators and imprisoned opponents. It was the political cluelessness of Live Aid all over again.
In recent years donors have steered aid away from Ethiopia’s central government and toward local governments. Such efforts have had little effect, though, since the former controls the latter. If anything, the Meles regime has become harsher still. In “Famines and Foreigners,” Mr. Gill shows us the nexus of politics and aid at the core of Ethiopia’s famines. Surely little good can come of Westerners offering their help to Ethiopia in ignorance of the cruel way the country is governed.
Mr. Easterly, a professor of economics at New York University, is the author of “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.”
In 2010, WFP plans to help more than 9 million people in Ethiopia. Copyright: WFP/Judith Schuler
Threats to Food Security
• Rainfall patterns (droughts and floods) • Land degradation (deforestation and soil erosion) • Population density • Infrastructure development • Insecurity and conflict • Poverty • Fall in world prices of cash crops
An ancient land with roots stretching back thousands of years, Ethiopia is in many ways culturally, linguistically and historically distinct from much of the rest of Africa. But like many African nations, agriculture is the foundation of the Ethiopian economy. The country’s wellbeing is dependent on uncontrollable factors including rain, climate change and the global market. Droughts in 2008 and 2009 continue to affect the food security situation of 5.2 million inhabitants of Africa’s second most populous country. Certain areas are currently facing droughts and flooding.
Ethiopia has recently made huge gains in primary school enrollment, rural road investment, health extension system expansion and food security programmes. Despite these achievements, Ethiopia remains highly vulnerable to food crises, with food insecurity linked to rainfall patterns, land degradation, population density and infrastructure development. Of Ethiopia’s 79 million inhabitants, about 28 million, or 35 percent of the population, live below the poverty line. Eighty percent of the population lives in rural areas with limited access to infrastructure, making it difficult for food, healthcare and other resources to reach the area. Ethiopia is a least developed country ranked 171 out of 182 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index for 2009.
In 2010, WFP will assist almost ten million people in every region of Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia continues to address food insecurity through its Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP). All WFP activities in Ethiopia contribute to PASDEP.
The main intervention in 2010 provides emergency food assistance to up to 4.7 million people highly affected by temporary food insecurity. WFP is also a major partner in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which reaches 7.5 million rural dwellers with much-needed support while generating community assets. Launched in 2005, the programme provides transfers of food or cash, or a combination of both, to help bridge food deficit periods and to ensure people do not sell their assets in order to meet their basic food needs.
In addition, WFP also provides food assistance to Somali, Eritrean and Sudanese refugees, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and pregnant and nursing mothers and children suffering from malnutrition. Many pilot projects, such as the Risk Insurance project, are launched in Ethiopia.
WFP Ethiopia’s Development Programme consists of two core components: School Meals and MERET (Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transition), a programme supporting sustainable land and water management and increased productivity in food-insecure communities. MERET was recognized at the Copenhagen Climate Conference at the end of 2009 as one of the ways to combat climate change. It has great potential for countries that are unable to withstand climate shocks and proves how community-based land and water management can halt serious environmental deterioration.
The School Meals component and the Children in Local Development (CHILD) initiative focus on supporting formal education and on enhancing child-friendly schools by developing schools into community resource centers that promote good nutrition and environmental awareness.
WFP is working to connect farmers in Ethiopia to markets through the Purchase for Progress initiative.
According to MPI Multidimensional Poverty Index put Ethiopia on the 2nd place in the contrary to Melese Zenawies double digit Index.
The MPI goes beyond previous international measures of poverty to according to Oxford:
Show all the deprivations that impact someone’s life at the same time – so it can inform a holistic response.
Identify the poorest people. Such information is vital to target people living in poverty so they benefit from key interventions.
Show which deprivations are most common in different regions and among different groups, so that resources can be allocated and policies designed to address their particular needs.
Reflect the results of effective policy interventions quickly. Because the MPI measures outcomes directly, it will immediately reflect changes such as school enrolment, whereas it can take time for this to affect income.
Integrate many different aspects of poverty related to the MDGs into a single measure, reflecting interconnections among deprivations and helping to identify poverty traps.
According to a new index developed by Oxford University and the UN, Ethiopia under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is ranked the second poorest country on earth.
The new measurement known as the Multidimensional Poverty Index, or MPI, will replace the Human Poverty Index in the United Nations’ annual Human Development Report. The new report says Ethiopia has the second highest percentage of people who are MPI poor in the world, with only the west African nation of Niger fairing worse. This comes as more international analysts have also began to question the accuracy of the Meles government’s double digit economic growth claims and similar disputed government statistics referred by institutions like the IMF.
In 2009, the percentage of Ethiopians who are in chronic need of food aid tripled to nearly 20 percent of the population compared to 1990 when the country was ruled by the pro-Soviet communist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Despite the reportedly worsening economic and political situation Zenawi government continues to receive billions in aid from the US and other western nations.
10 POOREST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD
1. Niger 2. Ethiopia 3. Mali 4. Burkina Faso 5. Burundi 6. Somalia 7. Central African Republic 8. Liberia 9. Guinea 10. Sierra Leone
Multidimensional Poverty Index
OPHI and the UNDP Human Development Report launch the Multidimensional Poverty Index or MPI – an innovative new measure that gives a vivid “multidimensional” picture of people living in poverty. The MPI will be featured in the 20th Anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report and complements income by reflecting a range of deprivations that afflict a person’s life at the same time. The measure assesses the nature and intensity of poverty at the individual level in education, health outcomes, and standard of living. OPHI has just concluded a first ever estimate and analysis of global multidimensional poverty across 104 developing countries, and is releasing these results in advance of the Report’s October publication. What is the MPI?
The MPI can be used to create a vivid picture of people living in poverty, both across countries, regions and the world and within countries by ethnic group, urban/rural location, or other key household characteristics. It is the first international measure of its kind, and offers an essential complement to income poverty measures because it measures deprivations directly. The MPI can be used as an analytical tool to identify the most vulnerable people, show aspects in which they are deprived and help to reveal the interconnections among deprivations. This enables policy makers to target resources and design policies more effectively. Other dimensions of interest, such as work, safety, and empowerment, could be incorporated into the MPI in the future as data become available.
The MPI reports acute poverty for 104 developing countries, which are home to 78% of the world’s people. What does the MPI measure?
The MPI uses 10 indicators to measure three critical dimensions of poverty at the household level: education, health and living standard in 104 developing countries. These directly measured deprivations in health and educational outcomes as well as key services such as water, sanitation, and electricity reveal not only how many people are poor but also the composition of their poverty. The MPI also reflects the intensity of poverty – the sum of weighted deprivations that each household faces at the same time. A person who is deprived in 70% of the indicators is clearly worse off than someone who is deprived in 40% of the indicators. Why is the MPI useful?
The MPI is a high resolution lens on poverty – it shows the nature of poverty better than income alone. Knowing not just who is poor but how they are poor is essential for effective human development programs and policies. This straightforward yet rigorous index allows governments and other policymakers to understand the various sources of poverty for a region, population group, or nation and target their human development plans accordingly. The index can also be used to show shifts in the composition of poverty over time so that progress, or the lack of it, can be monitored.
The measure, called the Multidimensional Poverty Index, or MPI, will replace the Human Poverty Index in the United Nations’ upcoming Human Development Report.
For the past 13 years, the U.N.’s annual report has used the Human Poverty Index, which employs three basic dimensions — length of life, knowledge and standard of living — to measure poverty in developing nations.
But this year, the U.N. will use Oxford’s Index: a “multidimensional picture of people living in poverty” that complements income measurements “by reflecting a range of deprivations that afflict a person’s life,” including whether a household has a decent toilet, clean water to drink within 30 minutes on foot, electricity, school-aged children enrolled in school and whether any member of a household is malnourished, say researchers.
A household is counted as “multidimensionally poor” if it is deprived of over 30 percent of the ten indicators used by the MPI. Of the 25 poorest countries researchers surveyed, 24 are located in Africa.
The countries below are, according to the MPI, the 10 poorest countries in the world:
A wealth of data
A useful new way to capture the many aspects of poverty
Jul 29th 2010
WHAT IS poverty and when is a person poor? Most would agree that poverty involves not having enough of certain things, or doing without others that richer people take for granted. But what is “enough”, which goods and services really matter, and who should decide these questions—researchers, governments or international agencies—are less tractable issues. Perhaps the poor themselves should have the final word. But this presents its own problems. Tabitha, a 44-year-old woman from a slum outside Nairobi, told researchers from Oxford University that going without meals was “normal for us”. Diminished expectations are only one of the effects of dire poverty.
In the world of international development, most have rallied around the “dollar-a-day” poverty line (or more precisely, the $1.25-a-day measure) and its less acute cousin, $2-a-day poverty. These World Bank measures judge a person to be poor if his income falls short of a given level, adjusted for differences in purchasing power. In principle poverty rates based on these measures count the fraction of people in a country who lack the resources to buy a notional, basic basket of goods.
Despite the many merits of the $1-a-day measure—not least its simplicity—some argue that looking only at income risks impoverishing the debate about poverty. Such complaints can be overdone. Income clearly matters: it determines how much people can buy and therefore whether they can afford to do the things, like eat enough, that critics of income-based measures think are more important. But rising incomes do not always translate into better health, say, or better nutrition. So there is clearly scope for measures of poverty that directly capture the many different ways in which, to quote Amartya Sen, “human lives are battered and diminished”.
A new set of internationally comparable data put together by researchers at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at the University of Oxford tries to take Mr Sen’s ideas about “the need for a multidimensional view of poverty and deprivation” seriously*. Aided by the improved availability of survey data about living conditions for households in over 100 developing countries, the researchers have come up with a new index, called the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will use in its next “Human Development Report” in October.
The index seeks to build up a picture of the prevalence of poverty based on the fraction of households who lack certain basic things. Some of these are material. Does a family home have a dirt or dung floor? Does it lack a decent toilet? Must members of the household travel more than 30 minutes on foot to get clean water to drink? Do they live without electricity? Others relate to education, such as whether any school-age children are not enrolled or whether nobody in the family has finished primary school. Still others concern health, such as whether any member of a household is malnourished. A household is counted as poor if it is deprived on over 30% of the ten indicators used. Researchers can then calculate the percentage of people in each country who are “multidimensionally poor”.
Looking at many aspects of poverty at once has several benefits. One problem with considering just one indicator is that some deprivations may be a matter of choice. As Mr Sen has argued in his work on poverty, what matters is not whether a person eats “enough” but whether he eats whatever he does out of choice. Fasting is fine; involuntary starvation is not. Some, for instance, may prefer the earthiness of a mud floor to the coldness of a concrete one. But the number of people choosing to be malnourished, illiterate, lacking in basic possessions and drinkers of dirty water all at once is probably fleetingly small. A person deprived along many of these dimensions surely counts as poor.
Measure for measure
By and large, as the chart shows, countries’ poverty rates as calculated using the MPI differ quite a lot from those based on their $1-a-day rates. In India, for instance, many more people lack basic things, as measured using the MPI, than earn less than $1.25 a day. The opposite, however, is true of Tanzania, which is doing better at getting its people fed, housed and educated than its income-based poverty rate would suggest.
Since the MPI is calculated by adding lots of different things up, it is possible to work backwards and see what contributes the most to poverty in specific places. In sub-Saharan Africa, the material measures contribute much more to poverty than in South Asia, where the biggest contributor is malnutrition. The authors argue that having this information readily accessible makes it easier for development agencies and governments to decide what to focus on. The MPI also does a better job of uncovering long-term trends. Successful reforms in health or education increase earnings only many years into the future but will show up quickly in the MPI poverty rate.
Much remains to be done to refine the idea. For a start, the things the MPI measures are not particularly useful for middle-income countries, which have figured out how to get their people clean water and enough food but where other kinds of poverty still exist. But the principles on which the MPI is based are simple and easily adapted. An index for areas within a single country could draw on more data and could paint an even more nuanced picture: the Mexican government is already using a variant of the index to help monitor the results of its anti-poverty programmes. Measuring poverty is not the same as alleviating it, of course. But the MPI is a step forward.
* “Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A New Index for Developing Countries”, by Sabina Alkire and Emma Maria Santos. OPHI Working Paper 38, July 2010
The World Food Program WFP has wrongly believed that the so called famine assurance is the way out from drastic famine in Ethiopia. In contrary to Band Aid’s mid 80’s unsuccessful direct aid approach, WFP engaged a business type marketing methodology by Insuring against hunger (IAH). This supposedly in turn eradicate famine from the the Horn of Africa nation by stopping from arriving chronically by taking out weather insurance policies on behalf of starving subsistence farmers.” Even weather in the horn of Africa is impressible. WFP wrongly advocates this will end the ad hoc nature of aid thus working against a government merely surviving through famine aid even from its inception in the famine camp during struggle in 1980’s.
Insuring against hunger (IAH) is a timely profit making on the name of food Aid in Ethiopia. Starting from Band Aid who did not try to make money on the name of the starving in Ethiopia ? And IAH will not be a new phenomenon for the Ethiopian starving dry bones. According to IAH group , the program is effective by indexing the assurance of famine to the Ethiopian weather variations which turn triggers the so called payouts for the starving population. Since the most destructive variance occurs early in the growing season, the so call assurance money making assessment can take place well before the harvest how much money its will make. As the confirmed by IAH itself the pastorals are not assured since there is no predictable rain fall in the pastoral areas that is the reason given by the IAH. The truth is that the pastorals does not own land and they are nomadic types,thus one could not grab their land in case of a catastrophe or non payment. While the settled ones IAH could easily take over their land and make them a slave worker in their won farms with the help of dictatorial regime of Melese Zenawie . The so called promise for the future ” remote sensing of vegetation to include pastoral areas ” is just an empty promise. It has been over 5 years now nothing has been done (2005). The pilot IAH has a tribal and regional profile in Ethiopia, since it has been selectively done in region 1 the region of the ruling dictator.
5 years after IAH in 2010 over over 14 million people in Ethiopia are going hungry
Can commercial practices like risk management prevent famine? This the Question to the new manager of the World Food Program who thinks so and is turning to business to revolutionize aid, we are addressing ?
Could World Bank finance over 80% of the population in Ethiopia, who are farmers from the population of over 80 Million to be assured by the future donation when famine strike?
One thing is sure that as we have seen in the last three governments in (Imperial, Communist, Irridentist) type of government in Ethiopia famine has struck and is striking and will strike a Ethiopia unfortunately. As consequence the Wold Bank and WFP better index not on the weather but on the famine itself, if IAH group are investing to make money in Ethiopa. So the IAH will be sure of its bit. The assurance company will be well assured then rather than indexing the climate, since the weather is not the problem in Ethiopia today. There is ample of rain but there is still famine.
The only way to eradicate the Ethiopian famine is to establish a democratic system of government with a free press and democratic uncorrupted institutions as proposed by Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen. This is the only way out with out we have to stop betting around the bush and all effort to stop famine in Abyssinia is a nightmare with a dictator on power.
The theory set by Amartya Sen is the best solution for Ethiopia:_
“It is, thus, not at all astonishing that no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent country with a democratic form ofgovernment and a relatively free press. Large famines have occurred in authoritarian colonial regimes (as in British India), in repressive military regimes (as in Ethiopia or Sudan in recent decades), and in one-party states (as in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, in China during 1958-61, in Cambodia in the 1970s, or in North Korea in very recent years). Even though the proportion of the national population that is affected by a famine rarely exceeds 10 per cent, which may be electorally unimportant, yet public discussion of the nature of the calamity can make it a powerful political issue.”
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1998
The famine has returned to Ethiopia it has never left, nearly a quarter of a century after the world’s pop stars gathered to banish it at Live Aid, raising £150m for relief efforts in 1985. Millions of impoverished Ethiopians face the threat of malnutrition and possibly starvation this winter in what is shaping up to be the country’s worst food crisis for decades. The government is busy robbing ballots and consolidating its grip in the famined population working for a bread a day in the country side in its own land sold for international grabbers for a piece of nothing.
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Famine Cover-Ups vs. Fake Famines
By William Easterly and Laura Freschi |
Is Ethiopia having a famine? As often is the case, there are two forces pulling in opposite directions that make it hard to answer the question.
On the one hand, the authoritarian government wants to cover up any famine to mute criticism of its performance. Ethiopia is due for elections next year, and the government is determined not to go the way of previous regimes toppled in part because of anger at famines in the 1970s and 1990s. The government’s solution? Prohibit journalists from entering the worst-off areas, and fight tooth and nail with aid agencies to repress or delay information on humanitarian needs.
Complicating the situation further is that the government army is operating against insurgents in the suspected famine areas in the South and cites security reasons for not allowing outsiders to enter, so nobody really knows what is happening there.
On the other hand, NGOs have a well known tendency to cry wolf and exaggerate—to see famine where there is no famine—perhaps in order to raise more money for their own organization (I am echoing here fierce accusations of exactly this from Ethiopians I talked to during my visit who were NOT allied with the government).
For example, aid organizations and journalists saw signs of famine in Mali in the summer of 2005. Reuters reported that aid and donations were urgently needed in Mali “where the same famine that struck neighboring Niger is intensifying.” In another article, an Oxfam official was quoted saying: “They say there’s no famine in Mali, but that’s false. People aren’t able to eat for three or four days. Forget the political or academic definitions.” While Mali had suffered a series of droughts and an invasion of locusts which exacerbated the chronic food insecurity there, deaths did not approach famine levels. The predicted high numbers of deaths from famine in Niger in 2005 and Malawi in 2002 also thankfully did not materialize. It’s impossible to know how last minute appeals for funds may have affected these outcomes, but the fact remains that desperate pleas to end exaggerated famines are a blunt instrument in addressing the causes of chronic malnutrition and long term food insecurity.
In his classic book “Famine Crimes” Alex De Waal observes that NGOs make “habitual inflation of estimates of expected deaths.” De Waal notes that during the pre-Christmas prime fundraising season, ‘One million dead by Christmas’… has been heard every year since 1968 and has never been remotely close to the truth.”
Put into the current mix a credulous Western media that is happy to check the box “Ethiopia = famine,” and is unable to handle subtleties like chronic food insecurity and chronic malnutrition vs. emergency famine. Between unreliable media, NGOs, and government, it is tragically difficult to know when tragedy is happening.
A skeletal child receives emergency food through a tube at a centre in Niger in 2005
JOHANNESBURG, 13 May 2010 (IRIN) – Aid agencies and donors have warned of the possibility of a famine in Niger, evoking images of the last food crisis in the Sahelian country in 2005. Some media organizations have already pronounced the current crisis a famine. So, what exactly is a famine?
“There is no clear boundary or definition [of a famine],” said Christopher Barrett, a food aid expert who teaches development economics at Cornell University, in the US.
“Clearly, 1984 in Ethiopia was a famine [a million people died and an estimated eight million were on food aid]; equally clearly, 2009 in the United States was not [the US Department of Agriculture said on average 33.7 million Americans received food vouchers each month in 2009, the highest number ever].
Barrett said the typical explanation of a famine was “greater than usual mortality that is caused by insufficient availability of or access to food, whether directly due to starvation or far more commonly, indirectly, due to disease or injury associated with severe under-nutrition.”
Stephen Devereux, author of Theories of Famine, a definitive reference book on the subject, noted that dictionary definitions such as “extreme scarcity of food” described a “few symptoms of famine” and selected some factors to “suggest causes”, but failed to provide a “comprehensive and concise” definition.
“A good working definition of famine must describe a subsistence crisis afflicting particular groups of people within a bounded region over a specified period of time,” he wrote.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of researchers, academics and humanitarian aid workers have tried defining it. Devereux quoted an academic as saying that “Famine is like insanity: hard to define, but glaring enough when recognized.”
Why defining it is important?
Controversy has dogged the application of “famine” to several recent humanitarian emergencies: Sudan in 1998, Ethiopia in 1999/2000 and 2002/03, and Malawi in 2002.
In an influential paper in 2004, Devereux and Paul Howe, both researchers at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, proposed a scale to measure famines. “Both before and during these [African] crises, observers failed to agree on how serious the situation was, or how serious it was likely to get,” they commented.
The search for a definition is not merely a technocratic or instrumentalist concern – it has political significance
A dire lack of food in Niger in 2005 prompted another debate: using their scale, Devereux and Howe pronounced the situation a “famine”, while pointing out that the international community used “less emotive terms, like ‘food crisis’.” This could possibly have been under pressure from the government at the time which did not acknowledge the crisis.
Defining famine is not “merely a semantic issue – these controversies have important implications for famine response and accountability”, and a lack of consensus over the definition has delayed interventions and the distribution of resources during a crisis, Howe and Devereux wrote.
They cited the 1999/2000 food crisis in Ethiopia as an example. “The contentious issue here was that of scale: because the emergency was confined to a single region [Somali in eastern Ethiopia]”, aid agencies avoided the “F-word”, saying the term should be saved for very severe situations.
A retrospective mortality study suggested that aid agencies had responded late in drawing people into relief camps, “where communicable diseases such as measles spread rapidly, contributing to an estimated 19,900 deaths in Gode zone alone [in Ethiopia’s Somali region]”, Howe and Devereux said.
The 1984/85 Ethiopian famine was another tragic example of donors responding only when people started dying. “In the light of this ‘No corpses, no food aid’ myopia (not to mention callousness),” Devereux said in his book, he had to agree with Alex de Waal, the British writer, author of Famine Crimes: politics & the disaster relief industry in Africa and researcher, “who concludes pessimistically that there is no good definition on which to make a diagnosis of impending famine.”
The search for a definition is not merely a “technocratic or instrumentalist concern – it has political significance”, Howe and Devereux noted in their 2004 paper.
Who do you hold accountable for the deaths from a famine?
Governments and agencies [among] whose job[s] it is to prevent famines “have often exploited the ambiguities in the term to contest whether a famine has occurred, thereby evading even limited accountability for their action – or inaction.”
Accountability, even after [an estimated] 70,000 deaths related to a famine in Sudan in 1998, took the “‘soft’ form of internal agency evaluations and lesson-learning workshops”.
Most definitions of famine had centred on a lack of food, but in the past 25 years the thinking on food security has shifted to the link between poverty and vulnerability rather than low food production, Barrett wrote in a paper. This stemmed directly from a “pathbreaking” book by economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, published in 1982.
Sen’s “famous opening sentences underscore that ‘starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat. While the latter can be a cause of the former, it is but one of many possible causes’.”
Alternate approaches to defining a famine
In the absence of agreement on a workable definition, various approaches have evolved to help humanitarian actors respond to a crisis in time: theoretical, coping strategies, nutrition surveillance, and early warning systems, Devereux commented. According to Sen, theoretical approaches describe the situation but do not provide a “diagnosis”.
The “coping strategies” approach evolved in the 1980s and ’90s, when researchers assessed the response of people affected by a food crisis at various stages to predict a famine.
A typical early-stage response was rationing food and looking for other sources of income. If the crisis persisted, people sold assets.
The next stage was dependence on food aid. If that failed, starvation and famine followed. Howe and Devereux pointed out that these indicators could not be applied universally and were context-specific.
The “nutrition surveillance” approach relied on nutritional data [ particularly measurements of children against tabulated benchmarks,] and used indicators that could be applied universally. These were used by the UN [clearing house] Refugee Nutrition Information System (RNIS), and the World Food Programme, but had limitations in predicting or defining a famine, the researchers noted.
There were “no generally accepted criteria of what rates of malnutrition or mortality indicate specifically that a famine has started. Even within the humanitarian community, some nutritionists and epidemiologists favour a crude mortality rate (CMR) of one or more deaths daily per 10,000 people as the cut-off, rather than the two deaths per 10,000 proposed by the RNIS,” Devereux and Howe said.
Most nutritional indicators dealt with children aged between six years and 59 months, said the researchers, citing the Sphere Project, a voluntary initiative aimed at improving the humanitarian aid system, which noted that there were no agreed definitions and thresholds for moderate and severe malnutrition among older population groups.
Devereux pointed out that when faced with a food crisis, the adults in a household ate less to ensure that their children had enough food. “During famines, therefore, child malnutrition might be a ‘trailing indicator’ that may not manifest itself until well after adult nutrition status has deteriorated significantly.”
During famines, therefore, child malnutrition might be a ‘trailing indicator’ that may not manifest itself until well after adult nutrition status has deteriorated significantly
Nutritional data could also not function as a reliable indicator of a famine because a child could be malnourished as a result of factors besides a lack of food, such as disease.
The “early warning systems” approach to a famine evolved from the Indian Famine Codes developed in the 1880s by the British colonial regime, according to Devereux.
The Famine Codes described three levels of food insecurity – near scarcity, scarcity, and famine – which used indicators such as three successive years of crop failure, crop yields, numbers of people affected, and food prices, but the measure of these indicators was very subjective.
Various agencies – the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), the UK-based aid agency, Oxfam, and Save the Children (UK) – have developed systems to predict a famine, but most do not have a precise definition for famine.
One of the most successful prediction tools was the Turkana District Early Warning System, based on the Indian Famine Codes and used in the pastoralist areas of northern Kenya, according to Howe and Devereux.
It monitored indicators such as rainfall; market prices and availability of cereals; livestock production, purchases and sales; rangeland condition and trends; ecological changes; and enrolment on food-for-work projects. The system identifies three levels of crisis – alarm, alert, and emergency – each associated with a pre-planned set of ‘off-the-shelf’ responses.”
Devereux and Howe used a combination of the crude mortality rate and nutritional data to draw up their scale for measuring the intensity of a famine.
Since then, FAO had done some inter-agency work to develop the famine scales into the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) Tool, Devereux told IRIN. It also took into account the indicators in an early warning system developed by the Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) [led by] the FAO in Somalia.
The IPC used a number of indicators to pronounce a famine, including acute malnutrition in more than 30 percent of the children, two deaths per 10,000 people every day, a pandemic illness, access to less than four litres of water every day and 2,100 kilocalories of food, large-scale displacement of people, civil strife, and complete loss of assets and source of income.
Daniel Maxwell, an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in the US, said the IPC definition was the “best consensus”, and was “now widely adopted around the world by FAO”.