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    Count to five: a child has died from hunger
    By Tommaso Dorigo | November 11th 2009 01:24 PM | 19 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

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    Please visit this site, and watch a ten seconds video which is very aggressive in its crude substance: during the time you watch it, two children die of hunger.

    There are in the world today a billion human beings who have insufficient means to sustain themselves, their families, their children. This is so intolerable that we use to remove it from our brain. Can you imagine your child dying of hunger as you watch powerless ?

    One, two, three, four, five. If we gave names, faces, stories to these children who die in silence while we trash half of our oversized meal, while we burn gas to get home one minute earlier, while we leave our lights on as we get out, things would be different. If we gave them a chance to tell us one word in our deaf ears, we would be forced to listen. That is why we do not. We remove it from our collective conscience, from our newspapers, from television. We pretend poverty is not there. Not just poverty: dire straits of misery, the fight for daily survival.

    Count to five, and visit that site. The goal is to reach one billion clicks, to say no to hunger. Let us give strength to those who fight hunger while we hide it from our sight.

    Comments

    lumidek
    That's unfortunately a problem in Italy, too. As the famous Czech song by Tricky et Povery says, "The Italian chap doesn't know the miracle, and that's why his body is deteriorating. The Italian chap doesn't know the miracle: beer, dumplings, pork, and cabbage."
    dorigo
    Hi lubos, this is a serious matter, unlike string theory or (I might hear you argue) global warming. I usually appreciate your vitriolic humor but in this case it is just stupid. Cheers, T.
    Hfarmer
    Thankyou for posting this.  It's beyond tragic and so simply preventable.  Why can't we just give everyone enough to stay alive?  :-( 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    B/c its a complicated geopolitical and economic problem that doesn't necessarily have a solution. In the 70s and 80s the IMF and other organizations used to explicitly send food to areas of the world where famine was rampant.

    The results were mostly disastrous. For instance in Africa, the local farm economies ended up tanking (b/c their goods were priced out of the market), gangs ended up stealing the food and resold them at extravagant cost and so forth.

    It quickly became apparent that the better solution was to use the money not to buy food, but to help the local economies develop spontaneously, perhaps with the aid of better technology for crop yields as well as stricter policies on trying to force the governments of the region to invest in infrastructure, health services and security. Success was limited there as well, but the results did improve.

    dorigo
    Haelfix,  I wonder if you would think the same way if you were a father of six in Somalia.
    The bare truth is that the economy of the world is not sustainable, so we have to get out of the system to mend it.
    It is a sobering fact that rich countries invest less than a billion euros in food programs, while more than 50 would be needed. 50 billion dollars is 50 dollars a year for each of those in need. And you are here to tell me you fear this money would be used in a wrong way ? Let's throw 200 more to ensure it reachs the goal then. Once we mend the emergency, we may think of sustainable development.

    Cheers,
    T.
    The reason they don't invest more (and the total private + public aid packages to Africa is much larger than a billion euros) in food specifically is exactly the problem I mentioned. Its been tried before and does not work, and is akin to trying to hit a blackhole with a hammer. Most recently in Darfur we saw the same problem, aid organizations dropped so much food in the conflict reasons, only to see the vast majority of it squandered with very little tangible gains for the people who needed it most.

    This is why you have massive thinktanks that spend a lot of money trying to figure out *smart* ways to spend the aid money (currently the feeling is that the best solution is mostly health related .. eg malaria and HIV medication.. Mostly to keep the bread earner of families alive).

    The fact of the matter is, suistanable economy or not, there is no reason that Africa should be that poor. Even with arid conditions and massive overpopulation, there is more than enough labor supply and land to provide food and services for their population a priori. The trick is trying to get them to a point where their economy is free to grow and where the problem will solve itself.

    dorigo
    Fuck that, Haelfix. Afrtica should not be this poor ? Start asking yourself wheter a fraction of the money gained by pumping the oil that fuels your car goes back to the people who live in the countries where that oil is extracted.
    T.
    dorigo
    And sorry for the rather angry remark. But unless we realize that WE are the problem and that WE have enslaved, impoverished, exploited, and raped that continent for hundreds of years, this discussion will never lead anywhere.
    T.
    No offense, but who's at fault for the conditions Africa is in, is quite simply irrelevant at this time. Most assuredly, its irrelevant to the starving families. Further, who cares? The much more pressing and important question is...
    How do we stop famine in Africa?
    Which I think everyone involved in this discussion, at the IMF, in the governments around the world and pretty much everyone would like to solve. Unfortunately, thats a hard problem, with not necessarily pleasant answers.

    The rational point of view is to see what works, and what doesn't work. In the 70s and 80s, we clearly saw what didn't. Western Infrastructure projects, and simply airdropping food rations pretty much made things worse. In Ethiopia for instance, we literally gutted most of the local communities farming industry, and yes that made things worse.

    dorigo
    Okay, but my point is that too little was done, and it is not easy to extrapolate and say that if 100x investments had been put in addressing the emergencies and creating the infrastructures that too would have failed.
    The world is rich enough for nobody to have to die from hunger. That may be idealistic, but it is a true fact.
    Humanity has solved bigger problems, the problem is wanting to do it. I am afraid we just do not want to solve Africa's problems that much.
    Cheers,
    T.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm sorry, but throwing money at problems never fixes them.  This has been an ongoing issue for decades, if not centuries, and it is highly probable that there is no permanent solution.

    The mere fact that something "could" logically be done, is not the same as actually accomplishing it. 

    Consider that in the U.S. alone:
    35.5 million people—including 12.6 million children—live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents more than one in ten households in the United States (10.9 percent). 1
    http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-domestic.html
    How does one solve a problem for the world, when it can't solve it within its own borders?

    We can find many things to blame, but will that cause anything to change? 

    I can certainly appreciate the angry frustration and the fact that such a dire problem should be capable of solution, but I don't believe anything will really help because people don't really want to change (including those suffering the most).

    I'm not advocating that we do nothing, and I would encourage as much participation and help that we can muster, but I'm also not optimistic that it will matter in the end.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hfarmer
    I never said we should give them money.  By "We" I did not mean the west either, I mean all of Humanity. 

    If all of humanity would just empathize with the poor and not take advantage the problems with distributing free food would not exist.   No one would try to horde it and sell it.  It would not cause the agribusiness in those countries to collapse (but if there is famine, it could not have been doing so well in the first place).   Sigh.  As Jinnah said to Gandhi in the movie "Gandhi" The world is not made of Gandhi's."

    As for why Africa is the way it is, I submit to you that's because Africa is a place where every plant, insect, large mammal, and even disease virus/bacteria has had 6 Million years to evolve with us.  This meant two things.  Africa was a place for which man was so well adapted that we did not need to develop agriculture just to survive until the population was much bigger, unlike say Mesopotamia.  Two Africa has soo man ways to kill a person, that just aren't a factor elsewhere.  Though there were once wolves and cougars and bears all over North America, there weren't Lions and Heyena's who were feasting on Hominids since the Paleocene epoc. 

    To add insult to injury Africa was colonized, and has not yet got over some of the systemic damage done by some (not all) colonizers.  Former British dependencies, South Africa, and Egypt in particular have well developed economies, and are regional powers.  Zimbabwe was doing fine until a drought hit&the government decided to disrupt the farm sector at that very moment.  Zimbabwe was once referred to and will soon be again, the breadbasket of Africa.  So it's not impossible for them to shape up.  
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    rholley
    That sounds like a sound analysis.  I was very impressed by our Channel 4 series which is written up in a book, The Day the World Took Off, by Sally and David Dugan, about the origins of the Industrial Revolution.

    In Phase 1, the domestication of livestock, they say that this took place in Eurasia because the animals there hadn't adapted to the present of armed hominids.  No-one has seriously domesticated the Zebra, and the African Bush-Cow is one of the most dangerous beasts in the continent, more to be feared than the big cats.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hfarmer
    Ill check that book out.  It makes perfect sense that the animals in africa would be wise to what humans might do to them or know how weak we really are.  Think about the problem we have in America with tree hugers feeding the bears.  Now we have bears without fear who think of people as food, so park rangers have to shoot rubber bullets at them to scare them off.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Gerhard Adam
    I have to disagree with you here.

    Humans are not weak and have never been weak.  As our history shows, we are the most formidable predator the natural world has ever seen.  There isn't a tribe anywhere on the planet that is victimized by any local fauna.

    Even your example of bears is more an issue of people behaving foolishly and risking injury.  Bears don't think of people "as food", rather than that they associate people "with food".  This can lead to dangerous encounters and if people don't know how to act it leaves them susceptible to injury.  There are almost no bear attacks where humans are considered "food".  Humans can certainly be eaten as food, especially if bears are getting desperate to put on weight before winter, but it certainly isn't a common occurrence. 

    The point is that, in Africa, people lived successfully for millenia and I seriously doubt that animals "learned" how humans behave anymore than they would learn how lions behave or hyenas.  Of course, evolution presumes that each animal will learn to evade predation, just like each predator must adapt to such changes.  Humans, are one of the best prepared creatures on the planet to deal with such changes, so I don't see this as being pertinent to the issue of life in Africa.

    Instead I would argue that many of the problems are a direct result of modifications to the environment (i.e. raising cattle and agriculture) and colonization (artificially modifying political lines).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    If all of humanity would just empathize with the poor and not take advantage the problems with distributing free food would not exist.   No one would try to horde it and sell it.
    Well, that's the problem isn't it.  It's worth considering that of all the species on this planet, it's the one with the biggest brain that has created a system where others starve amidst plenty.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hfarmer
    Amen. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    A lot of people like to talk about hunger in africa, but nobody wants to talk about overpopulation which is the root cause for the majority of food problems. You are letting these people stay in desert dry areas that cannot support agriculture and you expect them to take food aid for the rest of their lives while they keep expanding. If you say no to hunger please also solve the reasons for why there is a crisis of food in africa.

    Hfarmer
    Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and other such places are not deserts.  While arid they are places that are quite fertile.  However the climate has dried less rain falls and before you know it there's a dust bowl.  The same thing happened here, it could happen here again. 

    Let us just hope that when we need it the world remembers our good will. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.