By Daniel Maxwell (2002). IDS Bulletin Vol. 33(4), pp. 48-54.
During 1999-2000, Ethiopia suffered its worst food security crisis since the great famine of 1984/85. This was a classic slow-onset crisis, triggered by drought. Yet despite extensive investment in famine prevention measures by the government and the international community after 1985, a major humanitarian crisis still occurred. This article addresses the question of why the crisis was not prevented. It explores a number of explanations, including logistical and bureaucratic problems, information issues, institutional mistrust among international partners, the war with Eritrea, and the failure to address the underlying famine process. The article concludes by discussing some of the difficult technical and political lessons that need to be learned.