July 12, 1968

Biafran children appear on the cover of Life Magazine with headline “Starving Children of Biafra War”

US and European media do not begin extensively covering Biafra until the spring and summer of 1968, when Biafra had lost significant territory and the terms of the Nigerian blockade were making it increasingly hard to get food and supplies into the enclave. Children and others were beginning to show increasing signs of starvation, including kwashiorkor, the protein deficiency that turns hair red and causes distended abdomens.

Life’s ten-page spread was organized a Cold War framing that described Biafrans as underdogs against a powerful foe; the article mentioned that the Nigerians used Soviet jets and Egyptian pilots, but not that Nigeria was also backed by the British and US governments. The story described the suffering caused by hunger and lack of medicines, and showed remarkable images in both color and black-and-white. It was about this time that Lloyd Garrison also began to write extensively about hunger and suffering in Biafra in the New York Times.

Life magazine cover from July 12, 1968. with headline “Starving Children of Biafra War.”
See Also:

Herta, Laura. “Suffering Civilians in Africa: Between the Justifications for Humanitarian War and the Ethics of Humanitarian Assistance – ICRC and MSF Perspectives.” Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai 58: 2 (June 2013): 39-73.

Korieh, Chima. The Nigeria-Biafra War: Genocide and the Politics of Memory. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2012.

Thompson, Joseph E. American Policy and African Famine: The Nigeria-Biafra War, 1966-1970. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.