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close this bookWar and Famine in Africa (Oxfam, 1991, 36 p.)
close this folder6 War and famine
View the document6.1 Structural considerations
View the document6.2 The overall effect of war
View the document6.3 Some basic parameters

6.2 The overall effect of war

This report has already examined the central importance of coping strategies in attempting to survive enviro-economic famines (3.7). In his useful contribution to defining the specificity of African famine, de Waal (1990) has noted not only the role of coping strategies, but also the prevalence of conflict. The effect of conflict, both indirectly and as a deliberate strategy, has been to restrict or destroy people's means of subsistence and ability to cope. Under conflict conditions, people's vulnerability increases dramatically. If drought is also present, it compounds the vulnerability equation. If one then adds military strategies which actively promote, or in some cases prevent, population movement, or deny the availability of or access to relief food, then frank starvation is often the result, rather than the health crises of enviro-economic famines. Some recent examples of starvation under conflict conditions include Karamoja in Northern Uganda (1980), the worst areas of Northern Ethiopia (1984), Ethiopian resettlement camps (mid-1980s), and displaced Dinka in West Sudan (1988).

The consequences of war relate to the deliberate strategy of selectively destabilising and incapacitating rural groups. These actions are frequently employed by both sides in an internal conflict, although variations in the degree of application are common. In Uganda, Angola, and Mozambique, for example, the government forces, although employing similar tactics on occasion, are generally regarded as more restrained than the groups and movements confronting them. In Liberia, on the other hand, all parties to the conflict are involved in the systematic abuse of human rights (Africa Watch, 26/10/90). The main exceptions, as already mentioned, are Eritrea and Tigray.