Saturday, October 25, 2014

30 years on: Ethiopia and the business of hunger | openDemocracy

30 years after images of Ethiopian famine haunted British TV screens, they still shape how we see Africa - and ensure we fail to understand.
It’s 30 years since Michael Buerke’s harrowing report of a ‘biblical famine’ reached BBC TV screens. Following a year of cynical government inaction and silence, Bob Geldof launched a frenzied celebrity campaign to get aid to the famine-hit regions.
Money from the public, if not the government, poured into the country. But in the process, the politics of what was happening in Ethiopia was completely erased, and our ideas of ‘charity’, ‘hunger’ and indeed ‘Africa’, were changed in fundamental ways which to this day are difficult to challenge.
The BBC remains proud of its reporting of Ethiopia’s famine, and certainly it directed public attention to a horrific situation. But it did this at the price of understanding what was really happening in Ethiopia, a problem compounded by Bob Geldof who insisted on seeing the famine as a terrible ‘natural disaster’.
In fact Ethiopia’s authoritarian government under Mengistu Haile Mariam, heavily armed by the Soviet Union as a key proxy player in the Cold War, was waging a war against Eritrean and Tigrayan freedom fighters. Drought was being used by Mengistu as one tool to starve and defeat the rebel areas.
Yet when aid started flowing in, it largely went to the Ethiopian government itself, which further used that aid to forcibly displace thousands of opponents. In an excellent article for the Guardian yesterday, former BBC journalist Suzanne Franks makes clear just how problematic the aid effort was:
Victims of famine were lured into feeding camps only to be forced on to planes and transported far away from their homes. Some estimate the number of deaths from this policy to be higher than those from famine.”
As Franks says, Médecins sans Frontières refused to play along – a principled position they have maintained in humanitarian emergencies ever since. War on Want sent aid directly to rebel areas, where it was administered by the rebel infrastructures and senior Labour Party figures like Glenys Kinnock continued to support the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front and expose the horrific circumstances they were facing.
But by and large, aid agencies played along with the politics as the best chance they had of getting aid in. Indeed, the Ethiopian famine played a huge role in the enormous growth of the aid industry over the next few years.
Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that such a situation would be tackled more honestly today. Partly that’s because the way Ethiopia was treated fundamentally shaped the way we view Africa. Our idea of starving Ethiopians – helpless, passive and in desperate need of Western salvation – became our image of Africa as a whole. Media and governments played a role, but the biggest culprit was the aid organisations themselves, who understood it was untruthful, but found it an incredibly successful way of raising money.
Thomas Sankara/Wikimedia
In a report commissioned several years ago called ‘Finding Frames’, researchers found that this framing of Africa – what they describe as the ‘Live Aid’ legacy – remains incredibly strong today. Swept away is the political context of Africa – the decades of Empire and slavery through to structural adjustment and debt crisis. Also ignored are the many examples of African resistance and success – from the national liberation governments of the 1950 through to Thomas Sankara’s transformation of Burkina Faso up to 1987. Africa’s agency is marginalised.
The idea that we are a ‘Powerful Giver’ to ‘Grateful Receiver’ continues to dominate the aid discourse today, constantly reinforced by some aid agencieswho still insist of perpetuating offensive imagery in order to raise funds.
It’s important we use the anniversary of the Ethiopian famine not simply to show ‘how far Ethiopia has come’, after all Ethiopian civilisation long precedes our own. Rather we should use it to review our image of, and relationship towards Africa, and refuse to support those organisations which still grow rich on the ‘Live Aid’ legacy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Burundi, Eritrea, East Timor top global hunger index | Reuters

BY KIERAN GUILBERT


LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sixteen countries have alarming levels of hunger, with Burundi the worst affected, according to an annual index released on Monday which also reveals that 2 billion people worldwide suffer from "hidden hunger".
Hidden hunger, which is a lack of vitamins and minerals, weakens the immune system, stunts physical and intellectual growth, and can lead to death.
Burundi, which tops the Global Hunger Index for the third year in a row, is followed by Eritrea, East Timor and Comoros.
Some 805 million people around the world are still chronically undernourished, according to the report, despite progress in combating hunger – three years ago, the index recorded 26 countries with "alarming" or "extremely alarming" hunger levels.
South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa face the highest levels of hunger.
Countries showing the largest improvement since 1990 include Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand and Vietnam.
The report said hidden hunger not only affects the well-being of individuals, but also has economic impacts, including lost productivity, persistent poverty, and reduced gross domestic product in many developing countries.
"Particularly in countries facing a high burden of malnutrition, hidden hunger goes hand in hand with other forms of malnutrition and cannot be addressed in isolation," said Bärbel Dieckmann, president of German aid agency Welthungerhilfe.
"In the long-term, people cannot break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition without being granted the basic right to nutritious food," he said in a statement.
The index, now in its ninth year, combines three indicators - the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of young children who are underweight and the mortality rate for under-fives.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for an increase in numbers of nutrition and health experts, improved access to local markets and the development of local food processing facilities.
The report, compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide is released ahead of World Food Day on October 16.
It comes a week after the Food and Agriculture Organization announced world food prices had hit a four-year low following a record high forecast for global wheat production in 2014.


(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert. Editing by Emma Batha.)

Burundi, Eritrea, East Timor top global hunger index | Reuters

BY KIERAN GUILBERT


LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sixteen countries have alarming levels of hunger, with Burundi the worst affected, according to an annual index released on Monday which also reveals that 2 billion people worldwide suffer from "hidden hunger".
Hidden hunger, which is a lack of vitamins and minerals, weakens the immune system, stunts physical and intellectual growth, and can lead to death.
Burundi, which tops the Global Hunger Index for the third year in a row, is followed by Eritrea, East Timor and Comoros.
Some 805 million people around the world are still chronically undernourished, according to the report, despite progress in combating hunger – three years ago, the index recorded 26 countries with "alarming" or "extremely alarming" hunger levels.
South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa face the highest levels of hunger.
Countries showing the largest improvement since 1990 include Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand and Vietnam.
The report said hidden hunger not only affects the well-being of individuals, but also has economic impacts, including lost productivity, persistent poverty, and reduced gross domestic product in many developing countries.
"Particularly in countries facing a high burden of malnutrition, hidden hunger goes hand in hand with other forms of malnutrition and cannot be addressed in isolation," said Bärbel Dieckmann, president of German aid agency Welthungerhilfe.
"In the long-term, people cannot break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition without being granted the basic right to nutritious food," he said in a statement.
The index, now in its ninth year, combines three indicators - the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of young children who are underweight and the mortality rate for under-fives.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for an increase in numbers of nutrition and health experts, improved access to local markets and the development of local food processing facilities.
The report, compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide is released ahead of World Food Day on October 16.
It comes a week after the Food and Agriculture Organization announced world food prices had hit a four-year low following a record high forecast for global wheat production in 2014.


(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert. Editing by Emma Batha.)

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.