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Famine, conflict, and political indifference

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 10 May 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2196
  1. Andrew Seal, senior lecturer in international nutrition1,
  2. Peter Hailey, director2,
  3. Rob Bailey, research director, energy, environment and resources3,
  4. Daniel Maxwell, Henry J Leir professor in food security4,
  5. Nisar Majid, visiting fellow4
  1. 1Institute for Global Health, University College London, UK
  2. 2Centre for Humanitarian Change, Nairobi
  3. 3Chatham House, London, UK
  4. 4Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: A Seal a.seal{at}

Catastrophic combination for the people of Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria

In May 2016 an article in the New York Times boldly suggested that the era of great famines might be over.1 A year later, however, a famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan and more may be declared in three other countries before the end of 2017.2

In north eastern Nigeria famine probably occurred in 2016 but a lack of verifiable data prevented a declaration by the United Nations; the area remains at risk. Between 7 and 10 million people in Yemen need emergency food aid, along with 6.2 million people in Somalia.3 These four crises contribute to an unprecedented need for humanitarian assistance at a time when the US, the world’s largest donor, is contemplating large scale cut backs in overseas aid. A near perfect storm is brewing.

Although each context is different, there are some key unifying features. All four countries are affected by conflict, and in all cases a political settlement …

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