The Problems of Preventing Famine

The pictures coming out of the West African country of Niger are increasingly grim. Thanks to the global media, the whole world knows what famine looks like.

The current famine in Niger was easy to predict. Last year, the rains failed, and locusts devastated the crops that remained.

But when the United Nations appealed to the world community for aid in November, the call went unanswered. More urgent pleas this spring did only a little better. Now that there's a crisis, the world has begun to mobilize substantial aid.

If famine can be predicted, why is it so hard to prevent? And why does it happen? How much can be blamed on the environment, on war and on poor government and international institutions?

Guests:

Natasha Quist, West Africa regional director for OXFAM

Marc Cohen, research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute

Jason Beaubien, Africa correspondent for NPR News

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