Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not everyone can walk their way out of hunger

For every mile you walk, you burn about 250 calories. How much do North Koreans take that into account as they attempt to walk into South Korea and China? Surely they are aware of the shoot-to-kill orders issued to North Korean border guards. On the Chinese side of the border, Chinese border guards invade the homes of ethnic Koreans living in China who may be harboring refugees from starvation.

Biofuels, increased food demand in developing countries and the high cost of fuel are taking the blame for the current world crisis but there are many reasons more people are hungry right now.

Global warming may very well bear the blame for the cyclone that destroyed 65% of Myanmar's rice fields. That same area is responsible for 50% of its poultry and pork production and 85% of its aquaculture.

Global warming is definitely one of the factors responsible for the salmon shortage that is leaving the Stellat'en people in British Columbia with only one salmon for every twenty-five people, not enough to meet their caloric needs. Warmer waters mean fewer salmon spawn. The salmon shortage has involved the region in difficult discussions over catch-sharing and fishing practices. The Tyee.

The 1,100 inhabitants of Christmas island shouldn't be hungry, but the company the island contracts with to deliver food hasn't made a delivery since January. Planes fly over from Australia once a week with small amounts of fresh produce; lettuce is selling for $11 a head.

While the U.S. may be coming to think of the typical Indian as working in a call center, India still has more poor people-- some 600 million-- than any country on earth. Yet farmers are abandoning their farmland and rice fields because they cannot recoup the cost of seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, much of it a result of patented seeds from multinationals like Monsanto, which forbids farmers saving seeds from one harvest to the next. More than 36,000 farmers have committed suicide in the years from 1997 to 2006, the last year for which statistics are available.

Other people around the world are still (and increasingly) dealing with the shortage of rice and the cost of food, exacerbated in many places by poverty and unstable governments. Boarding schools in Zimbabwe are so short of food they are asking students to bring their own groceries. The Ugandan government said this week that increasing competition for scarce food supplies in Kenya and Sudan are leading to shortages in Uganda, also.

Finally, a full belly is one of the first casualties of war. 130,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria received subsidized food aid last month, but the U.N. agency that provides the food is running out of money.

Solutions to hunger exist, but the longer we wait, the more difficult it will become.

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