Thursday, February 23, 2012

same old story - yet another famine

No sooner had the U.N. announced Somalia's famine was over and another hunger crisis looms.

Last year, around 13 million people in the Horn of Africa needed food aid. Now aid agencies warn failed harvests in the Sahel mean 12 million more people require assistance.

The Sahel, the band of desert and scrub that runs south of the Sahara, stretches, west to east, from Senegal to Mauritania, Mali Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Mauritania, a country that is three times the size of Arizona but has the smallest volume of potable water of any nation in the world, is one of the worst affected. A third of its population is already at risk of hunger.

The primary cause is a drought last year described as the worst for decades by the U.N. As a result, food prices have doubled or tripled, while the price of livestock — often the main store of wealth in the Sahel — plunged as pastures turned to desert and the animals began dying of thirst. Nor are such instances of failed rains isolated. A 2011 study by the Center for Forestry at the University of California, Berkeley, found rainfall in the Sahel has almost halved since 1954. In a region already poor and sparsely governed, the drought has intensified competition for food and water, and violent unrest — like recent intertribal battles over cattle in South Sudan — is rising. Northern Mali is currently the scene of a Tuareg rebellion, as is northern Nigeria, where an Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, is waging a campaign of bombings and assassinations against the state.

In a grain storage near Gaet Teidouma, stock manager Jeddou Ould Abdallahi looks helplessly at the few remaining sacks of cereal stacked against the whitewashed walls. There is no way they will feed hundreds of people in surrounding villages until the next harvest in September. "We are on the brink of a famine," he says.

"Within months, people will begin to starve unless we act," warns the European Union's humanitarian-aid commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva.

Johannes Schoors, country director of aid organization CARE in Niger, laments: "Certain donors still want to see dying children before they make available funds. We need to tackle the underlying causes of food insecurity; otherwise, we will face a crisis every year. But who can afford to finance that?"

Scoors is correct. Capitalism cares only for those with economic importance. Only socialism cater for peoples needs

Droughts don't inevitably mean famine. While they may set the conditions for starvation, only human beings ensure it. The world has more than enough food to feed itself.,8599,2106546,00.html?xid=newsletter-europe-weekly

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