From the monthly archives: November 2018

So, can social nutrition be revived or re-invented to analyse the structural causes of todays protracted crises, famines and mass starvation? This raises big issues of whether the current political and organisational constraints and economic interests in the current medicalised approaches can be overcome and how. Can nutritionists find a way out of their current paradigm of individualisation, medicalisation and de-politicisation? This requires not only a review of the potential role of social nutrition, but also an analysis of who and what is driving the current agenda, and who is already contesting it. Perhaps the current famines and the focus on accountability for mass starvation can be a starting point.

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Current memorials were built with an implicit confidence in the future, expecting that the arc of history is bending towards justice and prosperity. In an era in which famines are returning, because political leaders don’t care enough about human life to take the elementary steps to prevent or prohibit starvation, the famine memorial needs to sting more. How to commemorate famine in an era when we seem prepared to tolerate starvation, I suggest, is a conversation that is needed today.

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Bill Hartung, a colleague from our project, Indefensible: Seven Myths that Sustain the Global Arms Trade, has just authored an important new report, U.S. Military Support for Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen (Center for International Policy, November 2018). Below is an excerpt of he Summary and Key Findings, we recommend reading the […]

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The strategy of the coalition campaign against Yemen could have been lifted from a colonial blueprint: the aircraft strike military and civilian targets in equal measure, including among the latter: agricultural extension offices, irrigated farms, fishing ports and fishing boats, clinics and hospitals, markets and roads. The artisanal fishing on the Red Sea coast, formerly a major source of livelihood—fish exports used to be Yemen’s second biggest earner after oil—is now almost totally at a standstill. The bombing raids are augmented by a blockade, which includes commercial food imports in a country that was, immediately prior to the war, dependent on such imports for 80 percent of its grains. It is also amplified by an economic war, which involved moving the Central Bank from Houthi-controlled Sana’a to Aden, and halting all payments of salaries to civil servants.

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Starvation had utility for the Nazis. As indeed it had for colonizers before and since. Acts of colonial conquest, subjugation and extraction had created famine, from the East India Company in Bengal in the 1770s through the American settlers’ use of hunger to expropriate Native American lands, through the British concentration camps in South Africa. The 1863 Lieber Code that regulated the conduct of the Union armies during the Civil War infamously provided that ‘it is lawful to starve the hostile belligerent, armed or unarmed, so that it leads to the speedier subjection of the enemy.’ In his 1906 Handbook for Small Wars, Colonel Sir Charles Callwell advised his fellow officers that pacification operations would likely involve confiscating cattle and burning villages, ‘an aspect that may shock the humanitarian.’

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The synopsis taught in Irish schools of the demographic impact of the Great Hunger that devastated Ireland from 1845-52 is as follows: 1 million dead, 2 million emigrants. Is it a general rule that famines generate mass migration or was Ireland the exception? Remarkably, despite long-standing demographic research into famine and intensive current interest in migration, there is no definitive answer. But there is urgent policy interest in the link between mass starvation and migration. This article examines the causes and migration patterns of episodes of mass starvation from the 19th century onward and demonstrates the critical need for deeper research on the linkages between famine and migration. Among the unanswered questions: Does migration mitigate starvation or worsen it? Does it precede or follow famine? And how?

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