Chatham House: Independent thinking on international affairs

Reports and Papers

Managing Famine Risk: Linking Early Warning to Early Action

Chatham House Report
Rob Bailey, April 2013

  • Despite strong economic growth in many countries of the Horn and Sahel, environmental and demographic changes coupled to low levels of political inclusion and high instability mean that the risk of acute food crises is likely to increase. Conflict and geopolitics act as risk multipliers, meaning that full-blown famine remains a real threat, as was seen most recently in Somalia during 2011.
  • These trends mean unmet humanitarian needs are increasing in the Horn and Sahel despite increasing donor spending. The use of famine Early Warning Systems (EWS) to anticipate and mitigate food crises provides a major opportunity to save more lives, protect more livelihoods, check rising costs and close the widening funding gap.
  • Yet all too often the link between early warning and early action fails and the opportunity to mitigate a gathering crisis is lost. This report considers in detail the various political, institutional and organizational barriers to translating early warning of famine into early action to avert it, and makes recommendations for how these can be overcome.


In the News

Politics makes people prevaricate, even when famine looms
The Guardian, 8 April 2013 

Political Risk deters action to avert action
Reuters, 5 April 2013 

Chatham House report: Famine risks are badly managed
BBC News, 5 April 2013 

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