19 November 2009

Famine Determinants

Bill Easterly’ Aid Watch blog featured a post about determining famines.  There have been cases where they have been over and under stated when there is a gain for the government (under) or a NGO (over).

Here is an excerpt:

In his classic book “Famine Crimes” Alex De Waal observes that NGOs make “habitual inflation of estimates of expected deaths.” De Waal notes that during the pre-Christmas prime fundraising season, ‘One million dead by Christmas’… has been heard every year since 1968 and has never been remotely close to the truth.”

Put into the current mix a credulous Western media that is happy to check the box “Ethiopia = famine,” and is unable to handle subtleties like chronic food insecurity and chronic malnutrition vs. emergency famine. Between unreliable media, NGOs, and government, it is tragically difficult to know when tragedy is happening.

Read the whole post here.