Part IIX of the Descendent of the Hyena Series.
Text and Pictures Samuel Hauenstein Swan
Over centuries, many societies have come up with mechanisms that reduced seasonal hunger of its citizens. Transport networks, agricultural technologies, storage and information on surpluses and shortages of food crops in various parts of a country all ideal mitigate the impact of hunger and hopefully prevent starvation of its populations.
However, systems and technologies no matter how sophisticated and right meaning depend on solidarity on all levels. For Anti-hunger policies they need the resolution of the powerfull to enable the voices of the communities that are subjected to the massive destructive forces of seasonal hunger and its aggravating factors – poor health, lack of access to resources conflict and so for.
Examples of success as plenty: massive relief interventions, public works programme, agricultural extension workers, relaxation of taxes to stimulate trade and lower prices. Social arrangements to redistribute food, assets and relief from the rich to the poor exists on the national and international level. Humanitarian is on an upward trend with record budget of US$27.3 billion for global humanitarian assistance for 2016
The question of who is “deserving” of this help, remains a contested topic. Those in power accept a moral and legal duty to protect poor and powerless against the worst and often focus narrowly on the prevention of starvation death while neglecting other forms of hunger and malnutrition. The concepts of vulnerability have evolved over the past decades for sure. The same sharp but the ultimately false distinction between “starvation prevention” and “hunger prevention” prevails today. An especially poignant question as the number of displaced, conflict affects and climate change affected populations raise quicker than the funds available to respond. Is the global moral responsibility limited to starvation or the much higher sum of death and distress caused by annual cycles of hunger which is mostly ignored?
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Photo and Text: Samuel Hauenstein Swan http://www.sambronx-photo.com
Part III of the Descendent of the Hyena Story.
The vast majority of small-scale farmers in Subsaharan Africa depend on rain feed agriculture. Yet, around Zara’s village the rivers dry up, as soon they have swelled in the short rainy season, and water becomes scarce.
Most of the world’s economic weak families live in rural areas and work in agricultural and livestock economies. For these households, poverty, hunger and illness are highly dynamic phenomena, changing dramatically over the course of a year in response to production, price and climatic cycles.
As a result, most of the world’s acute hunger occurs not in conflicts and natural disasters but in that annually recurring time of the year called the ‘hunger season’, the period during the year when the previous year’s harvest stocks have dwindled, and little food is available on the market, causing prices to shoot upward.
Employment and economic opportunities are often scarce during the hunger season, and to make matters worse, in many countries this period usually coincides with the rainy season, when severe illnesses like malaria strike hardest.
Despite the importance of seasonal cycles throughout the rural developing world, development response is often homogeneous in type and amount throughout the year.
Seasonality is one of these leverage points. Interventions like pre-positioning nutrition and health resources, providing employment during the hunger period, and indexing benefits to prices will cost-effectively reduce poverty, hunger, child mortality and illness.
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Like much of the Sahel, Chad’s Guera region is experiencing another bout of an all too familiar phenomenon: severe drought, food shortages, hunger and chronic malnutrition. Up to 18 million people across the Sahel are facing a severe food crisis and 1 million children could be affected by severe, acute malnutrition.
Droughts are by no means new in this part of the world and have been occurring cyclically since the 17th century but as Professor Marc Bellemare at Duke University in North Carolina points out “food crises rarely, if ever, occur because of an overall lack of food to go around.” Instead, “poor infrastructure and conflict combine to create the perfect storm of constraints to food imports and food distribution” and a steep increase in population over the past two decades is exacerbating the problem.