World Bank says famine in Horn of Africa is manmade

BERLIN Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:07pm EDT

1 of 6. Recently arrived refugees from Somalia bury the body of 18-month-old Sahro Mohamed who died of acute severe malnutrition and dehydration, at the Kobe refugee camp, 60 km (37 miles) from Dolo Ado near the Ethiopia-Somalia border, August 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Related Topics

BERLIN (Reuters) - The famine in the Horn of Africa is manmade -- the result of artificially high prices for food and civil conflict, the World Bank's lead economist for Kenya Wolfgang Fengler told Reuters Tuesday.

"This crisis is manmade," Fengler said in a telephone interview. "Droughts have occurred over and again, but you need bad policymaking for that to lead to a famine."

Some 12.4 million people in the Horn of Africa -- including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti -- are affected by the worst drought in decades, according to the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people have already died.

Fengler said the price of maize, or corn, was significantly higher in east Africa than in the rest of the world due to controls on local food markets.

"In Kenya, the price for corn is 60 to 70 percent above the world average at the moment," he said. "A small number of farmers are controlling the market which is keeping prices artificially high."

The World Bank said Monday its Food Price index increased 33 percent in July from a year ago and stayed close to 2008 peak levels, with large rises in the prices for maize and sugar.

High food and energy prices have stoked inflation pressures around the globe, but the problem has been more acute in developing nations.

"Maize is cheaper in the United States and in Germany than it is in eastern Africa," said Fengler.

Somalia's two-decade long war is also seen as exacerbating the famine in the Horn of Africa.

Some 3.7 million Somalis risk starvation in two regions of south Somalia controlled by militant group al Shabaab, which has blamed food aid for creating dependency and blocked humanitarian deliveries in the past.

The group has accused the United Nations of exaggerating the severity of the drought and politicizing the crisis.

(Writing by Sarah Marsh, editing by Rosalind Russell)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (1)
skullaria wrote:
We know from the wikileaks documents that the US STATE DEPT had prices artificially raised in Europe to promote the acceptance of Monsanto’s GMOs. Could some of the same sort of thing be going on HERE.
I’m fairly liberal but this is why I no longer support H. Clinton in anything. That artificial price manipulation caused many, many people to die.
I hope that Monsanto isn’t behind this one too, but it would not suprise me, especially if corn is involved. The crap really doesn’t make better yields over good farming techniques that aims to keep the soil strong, it just adds a lot of pesticides into the environment.

Aug 16, 2011 5:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.