The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 1 billion people on the planet (or 1/6 of the human population) do not have to enough to sustain themselves; in other words they suffer from hunger, malnutrition and all related after-effects. And while the wealthy countries’ governments are busy spending tax money on bailing out their rich upper class peers, the situation for those 1.02 billion is getting worse.
Australia for example promised to spend a meagre 0.5% of gross national income (GNI) on international aid by 2015 BUT, because that income isn’t rising as fast as predicted, even that half a percent will be less money for the poor than projected – a result of international bankers and other shady figures, including those in government, having ripped the heart of the world’s economy.
This is a particularly poor performance by this country given that it is a relatively rich island in a poor neighbourhood: 642 million of the total number of those who don’t have enough to eat live in the Asia-Pacific region (a further 265 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, 53 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 52 million in in the Middle East and north Africa and even the euphemistically called ‘developed’ countries have their share of 15 million hungry people).
Originally the FAO expected a better than expected food supply and had lowered its estimate for the world’s hungry from 963 million to 915 million. However, the organisation’s head Jacques Diouf now says that a “dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people that last year into chronic hunger and poverty”. And this year the number of the hungry is “expected” to grow by another 11%! (I wonder how Jacques must feel when he talks about the hungry poor while sitting on a US$250-300,000 base salary).
What always amazes me is the clinically clean and detached language used by those ‘activist’ bureaucrats to describe the causes for poverty and hunger: economic crisis, global economic slowdown, high national food prices, reductions in expected food supply. These are words that won’t change anything, certainly not in terms of the structure that causes the growing gap between the rich and poor, the North and South, the haves and havenots. It is a structure based on exploitation of the bottom by the top, competition for power and wealth in which the poor count nothing, and a patriarchy that has never known values such as care, empathy, compassion and respect and instead thrives on greed, warfare and violence.
Patriarchy is a large contributor to economic and social injustice, wars and violence. The vast majority of those suffereing from hunger and poverty are women and children, and the vast majority of those involved in wars, oppression and other callous and violent acts against others and the environment are men.
As long as these bureaucratic hunger managers on fat salaries don’t sacrifice large chunks of their salaries and get their hands dirty in helping the poor hands-on plus have the courage to name the real structural causes of suffering, adversity and injustice, nothing will change. And it’s a similar case for the rest of us: if we don’t get up collectively to do our part to overthrow this exploitative, unjust and violent system of privilege and power, neither poverty nor injustice will disappear on either side of our doorstep. If we don’t change, nothing else will change, and in the end we all might join the big suffering when our most consequential violence, the one against nature, takes its big toll.
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- U.N.: World’s hungry top 1 billion (msnbc.msn.com)
- World hunger reaches the 1 billion people mark (ctv.ca)
- FAO Projects 1.02 Billion People Hungry in 2009 (one.org)
- UN: 1 Billion People Are Hungry in the World (abcnews.go.com)
- World hunger ‘hits one billion’ (news.bbc.co.uk)
- One billion suffer from world hunger (telegraph.co.uk)