Monday, April 09, 2007

We oughta be ashamed

From Saturday's New York Times,
"Even as Africa Hungers, Policy Slows Delivery of U.S. Food Aid," By Celia W. Dugger

"...One of the patients, Annie Mubita, a 32-year-old mother of six, said her strength was returning, and so was her appetite, which had shriveled when she was sick. Mrs. Mubita assumes her children are also H.I.V. positive, she said, but has not had them tested because if they, too, go on the drugs, they will be as hungry as she is.

“If the children have an appetite like me, the food won’t last even two weeks,” she said. If the rations end, she said, “me and my children will die.”

The story documents how agribusiness, shipping interests, and a collection of U.S. nonprofits stymie changes in policy that would allow U.S. funds to buy/provide food outside of U.S. supplies to hungry people around the world. Grain grown locally rots in Zambian storehouses and people die of hunger (and AIDS, etc.), while congress argues that American support for food aid will collapse if the big companies and nonprofits can't make a dime off of it. This whole set of incentives is so perverted that I find myself in agreement with George W. Bush about a proposal he has put forward - you know the system is broken when...

Moral crisis. Food crisis. Sustainability ignored. Poverty continued and further entrenched. Global warming furthered. Politicians bought. Philanthropic organizations operating in the same self-serving vain as global companies.

The quote from Anita made me sob. Stop for one second and imagine being a mother choosing between medicine and food for your children - death on either side.

The data on who is involved and how the markets, the nonprofits, the politicians have all failed to change this system made me scream in outrage. This is how complicated our global problems are, this is why we need to think and act systemically in addressing our social issues; this is why we can neither expect markets to fix problems, nor philanthropy , nor the public sector - they all must change. They are - we are - ALL - part of the problem.

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