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Insurrection of the Famished – Causes and Possible Remedies of the World Hunger Crisis

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Crossposted from Axis of Logic

In a broadcast interview with Daniel Mermet on French radio*, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, stated that the current world food crisis is not due to nature, but to man.

Introduction to the interview from the web site of 'Là-bas si j'y suis'*:

"A return with Jean Ziegler to the causes for food riots that are appearing all over the world. Far from being a scourge like a drought or an invasion of locusts, there are people who are responsible for the famines that have struck thousands of men, women and children – the speculators and their logic of maximizing profit."

The rest of this article on the issue of world hunger is largely based on the interview with Jean Ziegler – "La faim du monde".

World Hunger

Over the past few months in multiple places in the world we have been seeing riots caused by food shortages – the revolt of the famished. There recently have been hunger-related riots in Egypt, Haiti, Morocco, Mauritania, Madagascar, Thailand and other poor countries. This is a long-time issue that has cruelly affected the world for several decades. Every day 100,000 people die from silent hunger, until very recently seen as a normal phenomenon by the people in the North. What is taking place today is the insurrection of the famished.

The explosion of food prices and riots by the starving people have occurred not only in the developing world but also in the rich countries. According to Jean Ziegler there are today 854 million permanently undernourished people in the world. The price of rice has risen by 53 %, wheat by 47 %, for instance. The rise of oil has obviously contributed to the rise in the prices of commodities but there are also other factors involved.

There are in the world today 2.2 billion people who barely earn a living wage, who every day experience the fear of not having enough food for tomorrow. While people in the rich countries spend on an average 10 – 15 % of their incomes on food, people in the poor countries spend 80 – 90 %. This sudden explosion of food prices is having a disastrous effect on the lives of poor people all over the world. The price of rice has doubled, wheat is up by 30 %, corn by more than 74 %.

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Protests, even riots are going to intensify. People will be forced to migrate because of lack of food – but where are they going to go?

We are seeing the specter of August 1792 when the famished people of Paris stormed and ransacked the Tuileries Palace, an event that was going to change the world.

The reaction in the West comes from fear of destabilization – of the market and of people's behavior. Cases of malnutrition are not limited to poor countries; even in the United States there are severe cases of lack of nourishment.

We haven't seen the end of the riots. This is just the beginning.

International financial institutions rule over the developing countries

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What is the cause for this sudden explosion? The causes are not natural calamities. The causes are political. Countries that were formerly self-supporting have become dependent on import of food products, because of the demands of the international institutions – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization – to change their cultures from what is needed for their daily food to export cultures, such as coffee, sugar cane, cotton, peanuts, etc., leaving out family farming. This neocolonial meddling in the internal affairs of third-world countries has led to a situation where these countries are no more self-sufficient, but almost totally dependent on import for their daily nourishment.

Wherever the IMF imposes a plan for 'structural adjustment', famine increases. The people are now forced to depend on imported food and other commodities. There is privatization of veterinary services and of transportation. There are no roads and the trucks arrive late or can't make it to the region in need of transportation. So what happens? The farmers can't afford the price of vaccination or vermifuge and their animals get sick and die. The harvest rots or the new seeds don't arrive. Famine follows.

What forces countries to agree to these dictates? They are all prisoners of enormous debts to the banks in the North and in order to have those loans refinanced they need to export what those financial masters demand. In order just to pay the interest on those loans, they are rendered powerless vis-à-vis the financial behemoths in the North. The external debt, the murderous consequence of decades of dependence on the rich countries, renders impossible the freeing of these countries to enable the people to become self-sufficient without interference from the international financial institutions. They were in need of help, they got disaster.

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Siv O'Neall was born and raised in Sweden where she graduated from Lund University. She has lived in Paris, France and New Rochelle, N.Y. and traveled extensively throughout the U.S, Europe, and other continents, including several trips to India. (more...)

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