the Disillusioned kid: African Famine Driven by Fundamentalism! Part 2.
| Email | Home | Linkage | Profile |

Saturday, August 13, 2005

African Famine Driven by Fundamentalism! Part 2.

I've written about the role of free market reforms in bringing about the humanitarian catastrophe (there's apparently some debate over whether it's actually a famine or not) in Niger previously (as have Pranjal and Lenin), but my key source was the Grauniad which sceptics might consider to be less than objective. That it now seems to have been picked up by the Washington Post (link via This Modern World) might go someway to strengthening its credibility. If nothing else, it re-emphasises the point.

The picture painted by the article is a bleak one:
With her family's stocks of millet long gone, Rachida Abdou tied her shrunken baby girl to her back and grabbed the emaciated hand of her 7-year-old son. Together, they set out in search of food, or for somebody who might help.

On the fifth day of their journey, they stumbled into Maradi, a trading center. There, Abdou recounted, they saw something that they hadn't encountered in a very long time: food. There were sacks of rice, bags of peanuts and baskets of millet in the bustling markets. There was enough food -- here in the epicenter of a major hunger crisis -- to feed her family and thousands like it, if only they had the cash.

"What can you do?" said Abdou, a tall woman of about 30 with dark, piercing eyes. She sounded frustrated, and a bit desperate. "The price of millet is very high."
The reason for this horrific situation?
In a country adopting free market policies, the suffering caused by a poor harvest has been dramatically compounded by a surge in food prices and, many people here suspect, profiteering by a burgeoning community of traders, who in recent years have been freed from government price controls and other mechanisms that once balanced market forces.

At the same time, Nigeriens said, the tradition of sharing in their society is giving way to sharper, more selfish attitudes as Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, reaches for a more materialistic, Westernized future. That is especially true here, along the southern border with Nigeria, where an aggressive entrepreneurial culture has created the economic powerhouse of West Africa.

"There are people who are making profit out of this whole situation," said Abdoulkader Mamane Idi, a local radio journalist. "The link of brotherhood and solidarity has been broken."
Clearly traders must take some blame for the situation, benefiting at the expense of their less fortunate fellow citizens, but what of the Nigerien government?
A government spokesman, Ben Omar Mohamed, said from Niamey that the government has provided 42,000 tons of free and subsidized food to ease hunger. In Maradi, however, there is little evidence of official food distribution.

Longer-term economic policies may be working against a solution, according to some observers. In 1993, the government scrapped price controls at the urging of the World Bank and stopped heavy-handed interventions in grain markets by an import-export agency.

Mohamed acknowledged that prices have risen sharply but said the government was attempting to address the problem. "Absolutely, traders are making money because the demand is very high," he said. "We let the market determine the price."
Read over that last line again and remember that it is being said in the face of a humanitarian catastrophe in which 3.6 million people may be facing starvation. Are these people to be sacrificed on the altar of the free market? Are we prepared to standby and let that happen? I hope not; as Zeynep Toufe notes, the situation in Niger raises some very important questions.

Update 15/8/05: Pranjal Tiwari pointed me in the direction of this article from Z-Net which says much the same thing, but provides more historical context.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Side Projects

Carnival of Anarchy
The Peace Pipe
UK Watch Blog


Against the Current
Culture hits and gendered bits
Daniel Randall
In The Water
Mike Wood
On The Barricades
Pizarro's Sword
Space Cat Rocket Ship
Surveillant Assemblage
TashCamUK FotoPage
The Naked Lunch
The Peace Pipe
The World of the Dynamite Lady


Anarchoblogs Blog
Arte & Lingua
Barker in Valencia
Blood & Treasure
Bombs and Shields
Born at the Crest of the Empire
Chase me ladies...
Chicken Yoghurt
Craig Murray
Dead Men Left
Disreputable Lazy Aliens
Empire Notes
Friends of Al Jazeera
Global Guerillas
Guerillas in the Midst
I Blame the Patriachy
Informed Comment
Janine Booth
Lenin's Tomb
Life of Riley Blog
Media Watch Watch
Neil Shakespeare
NO2ID NewsBlog
One Hump or Two?
Otto's Random Thoughts
Pitch In For Uzbekistan
Run over by the truth
Solidarity With Iraqi Workers
Shut Up You Fat Whiner!
Sudan: Passion of the Present
Talk Politics
The Anthropik Network
The Daily (Maybe)
The Devil's Kitchen
The Disillusioned
The f-word
The Head Heeb
The Killing Train
The Revenge of Winston Smith
The Socialist Unity Blog
The Wicked Truth
Theory of Power
Things I Don't Have Time For
This (Fresh) Gringo
This Is My Truth
Thumping the Tub
Time The Dreaded Enemy
UK Watch Blog
UK Poli Blogs
Under The Same Sun
What Fresh Hell Is This?
Where is Raed? (RIP)
Who Are You to Accuse Me?
Words and Rocks
Z-Net Blog


Asbo Community Space
Eastside Climate Action
Faslane 365
No Borders
Nottingham Student Peace Movement
Refugee Forum
Stop the War
Sumac Centre
The Demo Project

Ivory Towers

Anarchist Studies Network
Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice
Postanarchism Clearinghouse


Anarchist FAQ
Chagos Discussion List
Chagos Support Forums
Electronic Intifada
Future of Iraq Portal
Index of Political Blogs
Indymedia UK
Iraq Occupation Focus
Refuser Solidarity Network
Socialist Unity Network
The New Standard
UK Chagos Support Association
UK Watch
Weekly Worker

The Progressive Blog Alliance

Register here to join the PBA.