NNL POD 14: What was the Nordic humanitarian response to the Biafra Crisis?

Listen to a podcast on how Nordic public and voluntary organisations - particularly in Denmark, Sweden and Finland - responded to the famine which ensued when Biafra attempted to secede from Nigeria in the 1960s.

Meet the students and researchers!

Gaetan Gamba and Agata Pyka have also been involved in the films for the New Nordic Lexicon and in other locations across the Nordics.

All three researchers - Norbert, Carl and Susan - are part of the research project 'Civil Society without Boundaries: Nordic Humanitarianism Facing the Biafra Crisis' supported by the Swedish Research Council.

The Biafra Crisis in the 1960s was a turning point in humanitarian relief. It is known as the first televised famine. Western governments sided with Nigeria in the civil war, which had blockaded Biafra in order to subdue their seccessionist claim. Voluntary organisations stepped in and organised a massive airlift to the starving people in Biafra. Across the Nordic region, humanitarian relief was led by the church and church aid organisations.

In the New Nordic Lexicon podcast series, students get the chance to put questions to researchers. In this episode, students from Aarhus and Helsinki universities, Gaëtan Gamba and Agata Pyka, speak to three researchers about their research project on Nordic relief efforts during the Biafra Crisis: Norbert Götz and Carl Marklund from Södertörn University, and Susan Lindholm, from Stockholm University. 


Through a discussion about the reponse to the Biafra Crisis, this podcast illuminates many aspects of the  Nordic countries and their approach to humanitarian responses including: the role of Nordic civil society organisations at home and abroad; the position of Finnish and Swedish neutrality during the Cold War; and, the West's involvement with postcolonial Africa (31 mins, in English).

Further reading:

  • Arua Oko Omaka, The Biafran Humanitarian Crisis, 1967–1970: International Human Rights and Joint Church Aid. (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016).
  • Lasse Heerten, The Biafran War and Postcolonial Humanitarianism: Spectacles of Suffering. (Cambridge: University Press, 2017).
  • Norbert Götz, “Towards Expressive Humanitarianism: The Formative Experience of Biafra.” An Era of Value Change: The Seventies in Europe. Fiammetta Balestracci, Christina von Hodenberg, and Isabel Richter, eds., Oxford: University Press, 2024 (forthcoming). pp. 207–232.
  • Norbert Götz and Carl Marklund, eds., Biafra and the Nordic Media: Witness Seminar with Uno Grönkvist, Lasse Jensen, Pierre Mens, and Pekka Peltola, (Huddinge: Södertörn University, 2024) (forthcoming).