World Bank says famine in Horn of Africa is manmade

BERLIN,  (Reuters) – The famine in the Horn of Africa  is manmade — the result of artificially high prices for food  and civil conflict, the World Bank’s lead economist for Kenya  Wolfgang Fengler told Reuters yesterday.

“This crisis is manmade,” Fengler said in a telephone  interview. “Droughts have occurred over and again, but you need  bad policymaking for that to lead to a famine.”

Some 12.4 million people in the Horn of Africa — including  Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti — are affected by the  worst drought in decades, according to the United Nations. Tens  of thousands of people have already died.

Fengler said the price of maize, or corn, was significantly  higher in east Africa than in the rest of the world due to  controls on local food markets.

“In Kenya, the price for corn is 60 to 70 percent above the  world average at the moment,” he said. “A small number of  farmers are controlling the market which is keeping prices  artificially high.”

The World Bank said on Monday its Food Price index increased  33 percent in July from a year ago and stayed close to 2008 peak  levels, with large rises in the prices for maize and sugar.

High food and energy prices have stoked inflation pressures  around the globe, but the problem has been more acute in  developing nations.

“Maize is cheaper in the United States and in Germany than  it is in eastern Africa,” said Fengler.

Somalia’s two-decade long war is also seen as exacerbating  the famine in the Horn of Africa.

Some 3.7 million Somalis risk starvation in two regions of  south Somalia controlled by militant group al Shabaab, which has  blamed food aid for creating dependency and blocked humanitarian  deliveries in the past.

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