The Spreading Food Emergency In Africa

Donald Paneth Aug 10, 2005

UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.—A new, extremely dangerous crystallization of world affairs is taking place. Its most urgent manifestation is the spreading food emergency in Africa.

Millions of farmers and herders in West Africa – 500,000 in Burkina Faso, 1.1 million in Mali, 750,000 in Mauritania and 1.2 million in Niger – are threatened with hunger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.

They “lost their livelihoods because of drought and locust invasion” and are living in poverty “with very limited access to food,” FAO said.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) began a series of food airlifts to Niger on July 27.

“We are working flat out to deliver rations for some of the worst hunger I have ever witnessed,” said Giancarlo Cirri, WFP Country Director for Niger.

The New York Times published a page-one story on the crisis in Niger Aug. 5, but did not refer to the similarly critical food situations in other African nations. By and large, the mass media are ignoring the emergency.

On June 30, James T. Morris, WFP executive director, reported to the U.N. Security Council: “The greatest humanitarian crisis we face today is not in Darfur (Sudan), Afghanistan or North Korea. It is the gradual disintegration of the social structures in southern Africa and hunger is playing a critical part.”

“A lethal mix of AIDS, recurring drought and failing governance is eroding social and political stability. On average life expectancy has plummeted by 20 years.”

In southern Africa, a total of 8.3 million people are at risk – more than 4 million in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million in Malawi, 1.2 million in Zambia, and 900,000 in Mozambique.

At the same time, the use of food as a weapon persists in Darfur, Morris said. It is estimated that 3.5 million people there need food aid.

Following Morris’ report, the Council took no action. It failed either to pass a resolution or make a statement on the crisis, as is its custom.

The American public has been similarly unresponsive.

Walking into a New York City supermarket or gourmet food shop, no one would suspect that hundreds of millions worldwide go hungry, malnourished or undernourished.

The United States has an unspoken food policy, which is not designed to feed people.

Western farm subsidies prevent the agricultural products of undeveloped countries from entering world markets (contrary to the propaganda about free trade), and subject those countries to continued poverty and non-development.

These policies are enforced by the US-controlled World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

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