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Food Emergency: How the World Bank and IMF Have Made African Famine Inevitable

Lending policies pushed by the World Bank and IMF transformed a self-sufficient, food-producing Africa into a continent vulnerable to food emergencies and famine.

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Nevertheless, when asked whether structural adjustments increased food insecurity and vulnerability to famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, a World Bank spokesperson responded with the following statement:

The famine that has now been declared in six regions of Somalia and the food insecurity that has affected other neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa is the result of climate-related hazards in a context of political instability and conflict. It would be inaccurate to blame it on structural adjustment programs implemented three decades ago.

The spokesperson added that the Bank is providing $1 billion to aid the Horn of Africa, along with increased investments toward improving agriculture in the long-term, because “This crisis is a wake-up call for the need to manage agriculture in a changing climate.”

Recognizing Economic Violence

As tragic images of starving Africans in underdeveloped countries riddled with seemingly neverending violence and conflict fill the airwaves, a narrative emerges depicting Africa as a bottomless pit of charity and aid—one that ignores the historical context essential to understanding Africa’s impoverishment.  

Writing for Al Jazeera English,  David Nally, the  author of Human Encumbrances: Political Violence and the Great Irish Famine , concludes, “The portrayal of the passive victim enables NGOs and Western governments to assume the role of rescuer without having to ask uncomfortable questions about their own complicity in the suffering that is unfolding.”

It’s time the West faced up to the reality that this famine is the inevitable consequence of a broken food system that prioritizes the hefty pockets of the privileged above the empty stomachs of the vulnerable, draining Africa of its resources and essentially stripping Africans of their right to food and life.


David Nally  quotes Susan Sontag, reminding us that, "The more it's shown that 'the sort of thing which happens in that place' is partly an outcome of policies designed in this place, the more responsibility we have to do something about it. When viewing images of starving children or reading about deaths from malnutrition in the daily newspapers, we ought to consider critically the architecture of violence behind the picture or story, not merely the sad abjection of the victim."

Rania Khalek is a progressive activist. Check out her blog  Missing Pieces  or follow her on Twitter  @Rania_ak. You can contact her at

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