Socialist Worker

Poverty is the weapon of mass destruction

Issue No. 1883

  • $130 BILLION spent by the United States on the war on Iraq and homeland security over the last year

  • $80 BILLION would provide universal access to basic social services, clean water and eliminate malnutrition

    NEARLY 850 million people are on the verge of starvation across the world because there is "not enough money" to eliminate extreme hunger.

    A shocking new report at the end of last year from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations showed that the starvation was increasing just as Bush and Blair poured cash into the technology of death.

    The US has already spent nearly $100 billion on the war in Iraq. It has also spent around $30 billion on "homeland security". Yet, according to the UN, just $80 billion a year would provide universal access to basic social services, give everyone clean water and reduce poverty enough to eliminate malnutrition.

    The FAO report shows that hunger is increasing in the era of capitalist globalisation. As the power grows of the multinationals and the states which support them, ordinary people suffer-and sometimes die.

    Today around 842 million people are going to bed hungry every night.

    Most people suffering from hunger live in Africa and Latin America, but 34 million are in the former Soviet Union and ten million live in what are normally termed the "rich industrialised countries".

    In 1992 the powers which dominate the UN announced that within 30 years they would cut by half the number of people experiencing extreme hunger. All the evidence shows no progress at all towards even that paltry target.

    The report says, "The pattern of change in the developing countries as a whole has shifted from a declining to a rising trend. Between 1995-7 and 1999-2001, the number of hungry people in the developing countries increased by 18 million. Unless significant gains are made in large countries where progress has stalled, it will be difficult to reverse this negative trend."

    The FAO report highlights the increase in the number of undernourished in those countries it calls "in transition"-those where the glories of the free market were supposed to have brought prosperity.

    In the countries of the former USSR there are now 29 million (10 percent of the population) classified as chronically hungry. In these countries, the report notes, "Economic transition has been accompanied by far-reaching political and administrative changes that have disrupted trade and exchange relations and led to severe foreign exchange shortages. In addition, agricultural production and marketing systems have broken down."

    FAO director-general Jacques Diouf writes in the report, "Why have we allowed hundreds of millions of people to go hungry in a world that produces more than enough food for every woman, man and child? Bluntly stated, the problem is not so much a lack of food as a lack of political will."

    Doctor Tewolde Egziabher of the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority recently showed that the West has helped to prevent Ethiopia becoming self sufficient in food. Western governments and international financial institutions have insisted that the private sector must control the food supply. They have prevented the government building granaries and food depots that could store grain from one year to the next.

    Capitalism brings famine and war, and it is getting worse.

  • For the UN report go here

  • For the cost of the war on Iraq go here


    AIDS key role

    The US and Britain have done virtually nothing to halt the growth of HIV/AIDS and have supported the pharmaceutical companies in their efforts to continue their stranglehold on life-saving drugs.

    According to the UN FAO report, Southern Africa faces "an unprecedented collapse of health, agricultural production and food security that will endure for decades".

    Famine worsens the AIDS epidemic and makes those already infected with HIV more susceptible to opportunistic infections.


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    Article information

    Features
    Sat 10 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1883
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