Sunday, 3 July 2011


I hear that there is an impending famine in the Horn of Africa.  Again.

Now, this has been happening on a regular basis for about as long as I can remember.  One of my earliest memories in the field of international affairs was the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, and the resulting outcry that gave us Band Aid, Live Aid, Comic Relief, and the general trend for singers to become humanitarian emblems.

Given the regularity of these events, and their appalling effects in terms of both human life and social impact, are we not better to try and deal with the underlying problem, rather than the symptom?

(Note: this is a subject that I genuinely know virtually nothing about.  Hence, the question is of enquiring in nature, not a rhetorical)


  1. As noted in the comments to this post at 'Orphans', the late Sam Kinison had a monologue on the subject that summed up just that sense of futility...

  2. The problems, to my way of thinking, are wars, greed and mismanagement.
    You only have to look at Zimbabwe. This was always known as the bread basket of Africa, one of the main food exporting countries of the continent. Now it is importing food or living on aid. There is very little rule of law throughout the whole of Africa; anyone who tries, perhaps, to cultivate some land discovers that someone will come along and steal the produce; so why bother. For all the faults of the Colonial Powers, they kept reasonable law and order, were broadly free of corruption, and people were able to live from day to day without fear. They also provided work both in industry and on farms, most of which has now gone except for forced labour to produce "blood diamonds" for the dictators.

    It is perhaps worth noting that in another ex-colony, Jamaica, a poll by their national newspaper last week has revealed that the majority would prefer to still be under British rule.

  3. Kinison's monologue is the blunt version, but the question needs to be asked (if not in such uncaring terms).

    Dear old Radio 4 Today* dragged someone on this morning to explain why it was our fault really; apparently, we didn't keep our promises to help develop their agriculture. We said we would during the 1984 famine, but after the cold war ended we cut spending on it. After the cold war... i.e. ten years later. Rule of Thumb; if you've been trying to do something for ten years and you're still failing, give up.

    EP - yes, Zimbabwe is a prime example of how not to govern.

    *Who never saw a problem that couldn't be solved by spraying it with taxpayer's money