Episode 23: Famine and Foreigners

Peter Gill talks on Development Drums about his new book, Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid.

The Ethiopian famine of 25 years ago was the greatest humanitarian disaster of the second half of the 20th century, killing more than 600,000 people before the world took notice. Peter Gill was the first journalist to reach the epicenter of the famine in 1984 and he returned at the time of Live Aid to research the definitive account of the disaster, A Year in the Death of Africa .

Peter Gill has returned to Ethiopia to tell the story of the last 25 years in Ethiopia. His book draws on interviews with leading Ethiopians and with foreign aid officials. He interviewed Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the leading development economists, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs. Most important of all, Gill has traveled throughout the country and interviewed many of Ethiopia’s citizens.

What stands out in these pages are the graphic encounters with these Ethiopians–the supposed beneficiaries of western aid–who still struggle on the knife-edge of existence. What also emerges is the often tense relationship between official aid-givers and recipients–whether in the area of economic reform or the modern demands for “governance” and political change.

Twenty five years on, we can say that we did feed the world. But did we change the face of poverty, did we close the gap between rich and poor, did we fulfill the promise of “development?”

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