Are famines a thing of the past?

In a recent article in the New York Times an author was discussing the paradox of drought and less food availability in an African country and yet the people there were not starving to death. In other words, even in dire circumstances there was no famine and he wondered why.

According to the author, it was better railroads in the country and newly imported trucks that made the difference. Even water was trucked to places that had none. In short, nothing like the recent past.

The author’s point was that famines are often political tools used by politicians to repress the people. In that African country which the author returned years later to investigate the results were clear; given roads free from checkpoints and markets held at night to reduce the chances of being bombed the local economy worked efficiently. There were no famines when there was no fighting.

The author is not shy in making the point that once a country passes a certain level of prosperity and has a responsible government that can be held accountable for its actions the threats of famine recedes. He pointed out that there were no famines in democratic countries.

He ends his article by showing that 90% of people who died of starvation between 1870 and 1980 died as a result of imperial conquests, great wars or repression under oppressive regimes. With less major conflicts and more democratic countries, the threat of famines has receded.

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