Sunday, July 03, 2011

once again...hunger

The British news-paper The Independent carries the headline "Starvation Returns to the Horn of Africa", informing its readers that "families have walked for over a month through sand and searing heat in search of food, water and shelter."

Neil Thorns, Cafod's director of advocacy, who led an emergency conference on food shortages in Nairobi last week, said: "There's no rain, no crops and the livestock are dying. There is nothing on the horizon that will make any of that better, and it's almost certain it will get much, much worse. People are migrating in their tens of thousands, but there is nowhere better for them to go."

Adan Kabelo, head of Oxfam's work in Somalia, said "we are facing a terrible human catastrophe unless the world acts quickly."

Audrée Montpetit, senior humanitarian programme quality adviser at Care International explains "We've seen an increase in acute malnutrition but there's obviously a lot of water-borne disease too; that's been increasing. People accept that the worst is yet to come."

The famine looms at a time when food prices have been increasing sharply for some time – and still are. Since last May, the price of maize has more than doubled in parts of Ethiopia, and that of red sorghum has risen in Somalia by 240 per cent. Even in Kenya, white maize now costs 58 per cent more than it did a year ago. The UN's World Food Programme issued statement that "The humanitarian response in Somalia and Ethiopia in particular is hampered by large funding shortfalls...In Somalia, having started cutting ration sizes from February, WFP in May had only enough food left to feed 63 per cent of the almost one million people that WFP had planned to be feeding in May ... Because of a lack of funding, WFP in Ethiopia reduced food rations in certain areas of the country from March onwards."

This famine was well predicted. Yet again Socialist Banner views this as the inability of capitalist society to avert catastrophe because of its insistence in prioritising profit before need and in failing to implement long-term provisions. Though the relief organisations and charities are undoubtedly well meaning, they address problems for which the solution already exists. Though they have the insight to see the profit-driven market system as a cause of hunger, they err in believing they it in the interests of the hungry. Socialism could perhaps be brought about with less effort than goes into organising and running the myriad of existing aid agencies and their projects.

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