Mass Starvation: Recent media commentary from Alex de Waal on Gaza, Sudan, and Tigray

Two roughened hands hold a dirty silver bowl.

Below is a round-up of recent news analysis and media commentary from the WPF’s Executive Director, Alex de Waal, a leading expert on mass starvation and famine. In the past weeks, he has discussed starvation crimes in Gaza (Occupied Palestinian Territories), Sudan, Tigray (Ethiopia) and the Horn of Africa.


“Famine is a Massacre in Slow Motion:” On Mass Hunger & Israel’s Culpability in Gaza – Foundation for Middle East Peace, February 21, 2024

“Nothing is comparable in terms of the speed and concentrated effort devoted to destroying what is essential to sustain the life of people. Nothing compares to Gaza.”

Speed of deterioration of humanitarian conditions in Gaza ‘absolutely terrifying’: WPF Director – Al Jazeera English, February 15, 2024

“One thing that was sort of learned by those who inflict famine is that you can get away with it.”

Palestinians desperately need food aid. How did the war in Gaza make food political?– NPR Morning Edition, February 2, 2024

“For the survival of the people of Gaza today, it doesn’t matter whether Israel intends genocide or not. Unless Israel follows the famine relief committee recommendations, it will knowingly cause mass death by hunger and disease. That’s a starvation crime.”

Unless Israel changes course, it could be legally culpable for mass starvation – The Guardian, January 31, 2024

Famine expert Alex de Waal on Israel’s starvation of Gaza – New Humanitarian, January 18, 2024

“If some of the statements from senior Israeli politicians are to be taken at face value, and if Israel continues its campaign without respite, after an unequivocal warning of famine, then the case for invoking extermination and genocide may become compelling. Calling responsible actors to account is a key to ending the crime of starvation and Israel is no exception.”

Starvation as a Method of Warfare Starvation as a Method of Warfare – London Review of Books Blog, January 11, 2024

Looming Starvation in Gaza Shows Resurgence of Civilian Sieges in Warfare – New York Times, January 11, 2024

How did Blinken avoid the ‘atrocity famine’ in Gaza? – Responsible Statecraft, January 10, 2024

“De Waal tells TIME that since there are warnings leading up to starvation, ‘if you don’t adjust your behavior according to that feedback, then you become responsible, because you are acting in the knowledge that this is the outcome.’

About Israel’s actions in Gaza, he says ‘the fact that they are continuing to mount this offensive … even when they know the outcome, that is recklessness, a second-degree crime, which qualifies as a crime against humanity in the legal arguments of most of the scholars.”

How Experts Believe Starvation Is Being Utilized in Gaza – Time, January 6, 2024


What’s Fueling the War in Sudan – BBC World News, March 2, 2024

Secretary Blinken Meets with President of Egypt and has an Answer From Hamas – VOA, February 6, 2024

“Sudan’s civilian movement has been scattered. Political parties are struggling to form a common platform. Many neighborhood resistance committees, the backbone of the civic protests, have turned themselves into emergency groups for humanitarian services, while some have formed armed self-defense groups and others have disintegrated.”

Sudan is collapsing – here’s how to stop it – Chatham House, February 3, 2024


“A whole series of factors have come together to create a national food crisis in Ethiopia that is probably as bad or worse than the situation in 1984 that led to the terrible famine.” “We could see half a million people or more dying of starvation in the coming year if there isn’t prompt action,” he told the BBC.

Ethiopia food crisis threatens ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ – Financial Times, February 5, 2024

Ethiopia starvation: Fear of famine in Tigray grows – BBC, January 23, 2024

Ethiopia hunger: About 225 starve to death in Tigray – officials – BBC, January 16, 2024

New Warning on Famine in Ethiopia – BCC Newsday, January 3, 2024

Horn of Africa

“The norm [against starvation as a weapon] is evaporating fast,”… “De Waal suggested the proliferation of food crises has made it increasingly difficult to respond adequately, noting that several countries in the Horn of Africa are facing the prospect of mass hunger. In the past, he noted, ‘If there was a major food crisis in Ethiopia there would be a bit of a buffer in neighboring countries. In 2016, when a major food crisis struck in Somalia and South Sudan, Ethiopia was robust enough to be part of the solution. We really don’t have that now. They are all going down together.’”

Food as a Weapon in the New Age of Starvation – Colum Lynch, Devex, March 8, 2024


““We’re not back to where we were, but the same factors that have historically caused famine, like totalitarianism and using starvation as an instrument of war, they’re now happening again,” said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University. “That’s why we’re seeing a return of famine.”

From Gaza to Sudan, conflict is driving a rise in hunger worldwide – Vox, February 1, 2024

“I underestimated the cruel resolve of some war leaders to use starvation as a weapon. And I overestimated how much the world’s largest humanitarian donors cared about feeding the hungry in conflict zones, and giving them the necessary help to rise above the devastation when the fighting finally ended.”

I Said the Era of Famines Might Be Ending. I Was Wrong. – New York Times, March 9, 2024

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