de Waal urges readers to avoid complacency, and to turn attention to ongoing and future famines. He stresses that starvation isn’t a passive state, but an action done by some people to others. Thus he writes of “forced mass starvation” in order to focus on the agency and political will behind such tragedy. A “forced mass starvation” perspective might link the famine in Yemen that began in 2015 with not only a weakening economy and internal conflict, but also a blockade by the Gulf Cooperation Council, supported by the UN Security Council. de Waal argues that UN agencies and the press have been coy about singling out Saudi Arabia, the US, and the UK for their role in precipitating the food crisis. Yet “Should a famine rage in Yemen, the culpability for creating it and covering it up will lie primarily with the Saudi-led military coalition and its use of indiscriminate economic warfare” (page 190).
The human tragedies recounted in these pages are of course bleak. But the book’s style is accessible, and its message – that we can eradicate mass starvation, with sufficient political will – is galvanizing.