Catching Famine Early

Chinese officials engaged in famine relief, 19...

Chinese officials engaged in famine relief, 19th C. engraving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Famine Early Warning and Early Action: The Cost of Delay
Rob Bailey

Chatham House
July 2012

Famines are tragedies that have been with mankind since before recorded history. What is different today, however, is that there are a growing number of systems and tripwires that can warn the world when and where a famine will strike long before it does.

The problem, finds Chatham House’s Rob Bailey, is that such warnings are greeted not by action on the part of NGOs and the UN, but delay and prevarication. Examining past cases, Bailey isolates why, despite advanced notice, people were allowed to die, and he offers a blueprint to improving the process between warning and response.

With China’s growing appetite and the specter of global warming hovering over the world’s agricultural output during this long, hot summer, Bailey’s could not have come at a more apt time.


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