Considerable controversy has surrounded the application of the term ‘famine’ to several recent humanitarian emergencies, including many discussed in this book: Iraq (1990s), Sudan (1998), Ethiopia (1999-2000, 2002-2003), and Malawi (2002).2 Both before and during these crises, observers failed to agree on how serious the situation was, or how serious it was likely to get. For example, while most stakeholders concur, in retrospect, that a famine took place in southern Sudan in 1998, in the early months of that year there was no consensus about whether or not a famine was developing (see Box 2.1). The debate reflected both genuine confusion over whether – and precisely when – the situation merited the designation of ‘famine’, as well as pragmatic and political concerns about the implications of declaring a famine for the complex agendas of different stakeholders (Howe 2002).