Understanding famine in Ethiopia: poverty, politics and human rights

By Alexander Attilio Vadala –

This paper explores the extent to which human rights, democracy, and political contracts can be useful to provide the major explanations of – and prevention approaches to – famine in Ethiopia. The paper states that famine cannot be explained exclusively in terms of resource shortage, pointing that politics is no less important.

The paper demonstrates that in poor countries like Ethiopia, entitlement failures give an explanation as to why only some classes are affected by famine. For instance, there may be enough food at the national level, but still entitlement failures in some regions can cause famine. The paper argues that this is no natural disaster; it is a policy matter.

The paper states that in developing countries where famine is a threat, a functional multi-party democracy tends to ensure that famines do not occur. Yet, democracy by itself is not sufficient but it will render governments accountable by imposing a heavy political cost to failed famine prevention policies.

The paper concludes that:

  • famine should be approached as a phenomenon resulting from economic and political problems. This approach can better provide a famine prevention strategy, and can also shape the common understanding of famine
  • a famine political contract is one important means to address the problem
  • the protection of human rights in Ethiopia would help in the fight against famine
  • the international dimension of the problem needs to be mentioned; poverty is a big problem in Ethiopia and it cannot remain confined only within the boundaries of the country.

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Posted by on August 9, 2014. Filed under FEATURED. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.