November Hunger Notes: It’s time for U.S. to lead in combating global malnutrition, avocados imperil Monarch butterflies, and more



Lane Vanderslice, Hunger Notes editor

Bill Frist, the former Republican Senate majority leader, says It’s time for the U.S. to lead in combating global malnutrition in a well-reasoned, powerful opinion in The Hill.   Please read this opinion and, if you agree, think about how you might help to bring this about.  Perhaps start by printing the article and sending it with a note to at least one of your Senators or Congressperson.

How beautiful Monarch butterflies are.  How inspiring the migration from their small winter home in Mexico to vast areas in North America.  Their migration is threatened by loss of habitat, including large areas of farmland that provide no food for butterflies.  Almost none showed up in my backyard in Washington, DC this summer, in spite of the yard being filled with milkweed, Monarchs’ food, and where they lay their eggs.  Avocados imperil Monarch butterflies’ winter home in Mexico  by Victoria Burnett in the New York Times describes how global demand is spurring local farmers to clear land vital to the Monarchs to plant avocados.

The massive food crisis you haven’t heard about is an excellent 4 1/2 minute video about the food crisis in the 10-country Southern Africa region caused by El Nino. Published by the Center for International Strategic Studies.  And Food Tank lists 26 Films Every Food Activist Must Watch .

The genocidal logic of South Sudan’s “gun class” by Alan Boswell in IRIN describes how failures in the political process led to a descent into war, which is decimating the country.

South Sudan’s ethnopolitical war is rooted in the flaws of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which installed a non-representative and ethnically fractured party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, in charge of a future country it never won over.  Once war starts, groups must take sides, and conflict, destruction and death escalate.

Conflict, and the struggle for control of government that usually lies behind it, are essential things for a student of poverty and hunger to understand.

Life on the Pine Ridge Native American reservation  by Patrick Strickland in Al Jazeera paints a portrait of  poverty in America in a place where life expectancy is the second-lowest in the western hemisphere (after Haiti), and 80 percent of people are unemployed.

Land grab update: Mozambique, Africa still in crosshairs by Timothy J. Wise on Food Tank describes how more than 1,000 large-scale foreign land deals are now under contract for agriculture covering more than 26 million hectares of land, according to the new report, Land Matrix Analytical Report II: International Land Deals for Agriculture. That area represents a remarkable two percent of arable land in the world.

We have run three articles this month that don’t appear to have very much to do with hunger,  but they give concrete instances of a factor that is very important as a cause of hunger, what we call restricting entry in our fact sheet Harmful economic systems as a cause of hunger and poverty, and which is better known in the United States as discrimination or prejudice.  From the fact sheet:

Restricting entry works by limiting access to worthwhile employment, as well as other social advantages such as education and ability to marry outside of one’s class or group. Typically, in order to restrict entry, minorities/ordinary people have also been disparaged in some way—for their supposed (lack of) intelligence, personal appearance or for some other reason.

The elimination of violence against women by Lakshimi Puri in IRIN discusses progress, and the lack of it, in this area.  Violence against women is a major rights violation, often ascending to the level of a crime, and mainly going unpunished.  It is also used as a tool to keep women down.

Bribes and bureaucracy: Myanmar’s chaotic citizenship system by Julia Wallace in IRIN describes the various ways in which Muslims, even though born in Myanmar, are restricted from citizenship and the rights that go with it due to prejudice.

Tanzania suspends U.S.-funded AIDS programs in a new crackdown on gays by Kevin Seiff in the Washington Post describes how Tanzania is suspending U.S.-funded AIDS prevention programs because of strong government discrimination against gays.  This will now prevent many gays from getting antiretrovirals, for example, a restriction that threatens their lives and that does not apply to others in Tanzania.

Violence, denial of citizenship,  denying access to HIV programs, all do lead to hunger.  Women, Muslims in Burma, and people with AIDS are all groups with elevated levels of hunger.  This consequence just doesn’t appear in these stories.  See, for example,  Breaking the cycle of HIV, hunger, and poverty  by the World Food Program, an article HN ran in 2012.  It is precisely because of the vast increase in the use of retrovirals that hunger is less of an issue with those that have HIV.

We have run two articles on India calling in its largest banknotes and issuing new ones, one of them being  Indians rush frantically to launder their black money by Geeta Anand of the New York Times. India runs to a great extent on actual cash, rather than checks or credit cards.  A important reason for this is the avoidance of taxes. Cash can be kept off the books.  By calling in the big notes and issuing new ones, the Indian government is hoping to locate large stashes of cash, which it will then investigate to see if the owners have paid the proper taxes.  We wanted to flag this topic because avoidance of taxes, and the conclusions to be drawn from it, are an important issue in developing countries.  If a government is efficiently delivering effective programs, the hoped-for boost in tax revenue will be helpful, especially if the main people avoiding taxes are the rich.  If, on the other hand, the programs are not effective or the tax rates are very high (they often are set high, with the implicit understanding that taxes will be avoided) the “underground economy” is probably a good thing.   It is an issue where one’s judgement does depend on the actual circumstances.   This issue is important for hunger policy in India.  The FAO estimates that 15 percent of India’s population is undernourished–a high percentage. There are Indian government programs to reduce hunger that could increase their benefit by increasing both efficiency and funding.  See  a past article from the Guardian that we have run India’s battle against hunger beset by problems of delivery and corruption. Malnutrition is on the rise, despite nutrition rehabilitation centers and ration shops .

 

 

 

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