Monday, August 29, 2011

Drought not the real cause of East Africa famine which could kill up to 12 MILLION people - 29th Aug 2011

Imagine if long-term drought were to strike a part of the rural United States, Wyoming say, or Montana.

There would be bank foreclosures as the price of cattle would fall because there was too many of them on the market, families would tragically lose their farms, and grocery lists would be trimmed.

But would people starve, actually waste away until their bodies began to devour themselves?

In Southern Somalia, Djibouti, parts of Ethiopia and in refugee camps in Kenya at the moment, up to 12 million people, basically half a Canada, are facing death.

In Somalia, the people already in crisis number about four million. Mothers, for example, are again making the Sophie's choice of how to share the small resources of remaining food amongst their children.

And the tired old terms to explain it all are again repeated. The cause, we are told, is drought. The "caused by drought" formula is not only lazy journalism. We've heard that song sung so often in the past that it may now make us immune to the famine's claim on us.

Certainly, drought is a trigger of famine. And global warming might be extending the length of droughts. But Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist famously said that no substantial famine has ever occurred in a liberal democracy. I believe Sen is right.

Famines occur in places where people are tyrannized over either by governments or, in the case of Southern Somalia, by private armies and militias. They occur in places where even in the lead-up years to famine, farmers are not always able to plant crops with security, without the likelihood that they might be confiscated, or that the village granary will be burned by armies, private and government. Read More