David Dickson

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Two views on East Africa crisis: Famine is a crime; famine is bad science | 

As the United Nations and the international community ramps up to airlift food and supplies into East Africa, mostly for starving Somali refugees, two perspectives on this crisis seemed especially interesting to me.

In Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny contends that, in this day and age, allowing a famine to occur is basically a crime against humanity:

For all its horror, starvation is also one of the simpler forms of mortality to prevent — it just takes food.  Drought, poor roads, poverty — all are contributing factors to the risk of famine, but sustenance in the hands of the hungry is a pretty foolproof solution.

As a result, famine deaths in the modern world are almost always the result of deliberate acts on the part of governing authorities. That is why widespread starvation is a crime against humanity and the leaders who abet it should be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

That might sound a little melodramatic, but read his argument. Compelling stuff.

On a different line of thought, David Dickson, editor of the Science and Development Network, contends that the UN, Western powers and aid organizations could have been well-prepared for this crisis — if they had paid any attention to the scientific evidence reported by weather and drought prediction experts.

Dickson writes:

Earlier this week, the UN declared the drought in southern Somalia had become so bad that it could be officially declared a famine — the first time the word had been applied to this region in almost 20 years.

The news came as little surprise to agencies that had been monitoring the lack of rainfall over the past year, which is partly linked to the La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean. They had predicted that a widescale shortage of food was highly likely to occur.