Book Review: Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Insudtry in Africa


by Alex de Waal

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. . . . ISBN:0253211581

An effective critique of the “humanitarian international” which, in the name of promoting humanitarian relief, actually often exacerbates the problems. The author, a co-director of the london-based African Rights organization, discusses the culture of humanitarian relief agencies, which, usually staffed by ill-trained, if idealistic volunteers, are impervious to change, often focus on the wrong issues, and are usually fiercely oppose working in cooperation with governmental instutions.

Perhaps de Waal’s most telling observation is that famine is largely a consequence of authoritarian regimes; Indeed, he points out that there has never been a famine in a country with responsive democratic instutions.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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