The xenophobia of some of Britain’s Leave campaigners breeds precisely the kind of callousness that in the past has allowed governments to justify policies that allow starvation.

That hasn’t happened yet, but it looms. Britain has a deplorable record of tolerating famines or even creating them: Ireland in the 1840s, Germany in 1918-19, Bengal in the 1940s, Biafra in the 1960s. The British Foreign Secretary may have a good memory for Rudyard Kipling’s colonial poetry, he probably doesn’t recall his predecessor at the time of Biafra dismissing humanitarian concern with the observation that starving your enemy was standard practice in warfare.

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For the first time ever in our history, Ethiopia’s political leader has resigned through a peaceful process. Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn has left office showing an essential political virtue: patriotic restraint. What this shows is that our country can have normal politics.

The annals of our history is filled with people who heroically sacrificed […]

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The ongoing war in Yemen is the source of one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world today, with millions of Yemenis facing an imminent threat of famine, in addition to the 10,000 (as of January 2017) who have been directly killed by the fighting. All sides have committed major abuses of international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. The war seems to be at a stalemate, and is becoming even more complex with recent fighting in Aden between UAE-backed southern separatists, and formerly-allied Saudi-backed forces loyal to the internationally-recognized ‘government’ (if Yemen can be said to possess such a thing) of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

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The sexual abuse allegations against Oxfam staff came to light because Oxfam has one the best reporting systems in the aid industry. Sexual harassment, exploitation and assault is commonplace in the entire aid business, from the smallest voluntary agencies to the biggest United Nations organizations. The claims about orgy parties in Oxfam compounds, hiring of sex workers, and sexual assault of children in Oxfam’s British charity shops are sadly very credible. What they point to is a system-wide problem, which needs a radical change in institutional culture—not a vindictive scapegoating of one particular agency.

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The presidential speech is a special artform. One of the things that makes it unique is that the speaker has to address several different audiences at the same time, such as a legislature, a domestic public, a political party, and international peers. Africa has a lot of presidents and they make a lot of speeches, […]

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Politics of Starvation

On January 30, 2018 By

Humanitarians struggle to claim successes that are rightfully theirs. Two recent books help us to understand why the tremendous achievement of reducing the number and lethality of famines over the past half-century is not well understood, and hasn’t been sustained. Up to the 1960s, the world suffered a persistent drumbeat of out-breaks of mass starvation that left an average of 10 million dead every decade. By the 1990s that number had dropped to about 500,000. Then, about a decade ago, the advance halted and began, slowly but appreciably, to reverse. We are not back to the horror years of the mid-twentieth century, but there’s reason for concern.

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