FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The War of Hunger That Afflicts the World’s Poor

It is impossible to go anywhere in India without being confronted with the terrible enormity of hunger. One in two Indians goes to sleep at night without a full stomach.

At the outskirts of Delhi, which was once farmland, shacks house those who work across the city. They are the people who build houses and clean houses, who build goods and dispose of goods. A walk down the streets of the trans-Yamuna colonies reveals that despite the new buildings there, new hovels rise up. One set is built along a wall underneath the shadow of the Metro rail. The people there tell me that they were construction workers for the Metro. That is when they moved to this encampment. The Metro is now complete. They remain. They scratch out a living as domestic workers and construction workers.

It is early in the morning. Children eat bits of bread. Hunger shadows the eyes of the adults. The conversation goes to food. ‘Onions and potatoes are too expensive’, says one man. He is right. This is a reflection of rising petrol prices. That he mentioned onions and potatoes is of interest. These are luxuries here. Starch is the main food.

A few months ago, I spoke to people who had queued up outside a van. This van had a poster that read, ‘Balaji Kunba – a family against hunger’. Over the course of the past year, the Bisoya has been distributing food to the poor across the city. They are motivated by great moral feeling, but not by parochial religious considerations. The figure on the poster is Hanuman, whom they say is angry not at this religion or that, but at hunger. Hanuman, they say, ‘goes to the temple to eat a ladoo. He goes to the mosque to eat kheer’. Those who are hungry, the family says, do not understand religion.

War and Hunger

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation’s quarterly report shows that the countries that require food assistance increased from 37 to 39. A combination of erratic rainfall and war has removed food from the homes of people. Harvests continue to decline in regions of the world wracked by conflict, places such as Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen as well as in parts of Central Africa. ‘Conflicts have choked agricultural activity’ in these regions, the FAO points out, ‘where access to food is further hindered by surging inflation’.

It is now estimated that in South Sudan, where the conflict seems endless, 7.1 million South Sudanese are hungry all day, each day. That is to say, two of every three people in South Sudan suffer from acute or crisis food insecurity. This is a direct result of the war.

Matters are as bad in Yemen, where the three-year war prosecuted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has starved the population. By the end of this year, eighteen million Yemenis (out of a population of twenty-two million people) will starve. It is likely that the Saudi-Emirati coalition will seize the port city of Hodeida on the Red Sea, and most likely would use its control over the port to embargo supplies into the country. Seventy per cent of Yemen’s food, fifty per cent of its fuel and most of its medicines enters from this port. The siege of the country would be truly catastrophic for the country.

Waste and Property

Not far from the hovels in Delhi sits the Gazipur landfill. It is the size of a small mountain. Delhi’s trash goes there. As the hot summer wind moves westwards, it carries the rancid smells from the landfill. Last year, garbage from that little mountain fell and killed two people. It is a hazard in so many ways.

The landfill reminds us of the waste produced in our society – a fact noted by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity group . A stunning forty per cent of all food is lost or wasted. There is more than enough food produced on the planet for all the billions of its inhabitants. Yet, those who have no, or little, money cannot afford to feed themselves. Those without property are fated to starve. The food that cannot be bought is thrown away. The excess food that cannot be eaten by those who have the money is also thrown away. It is a rebuke to the capitalist system that people are forced to starve if they have no money and that the food that is available is thrown away because of economic inequality.

That smell from the landfill sends another important message. As the food decomposes in the landfill, it produces methane. Methane is far more lethal as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. One of the drivers of climate change is, therefore, the wasted food (as well as other organic matter).

War, Climate Change, Money – these are the engines of hunger. The terrible atrocity of the wars in South Sudan and Yemen should sharpen our gaze at the epidemic of hunger.

But there is a quiet war ongoing in places like India. Here, there are no bombs falling from the sky. Instead, there is another kind of bomb that finds itself bursting on every street, near every shack. This is an idea: the idea of private property. Those who have no private property struggle to eat. They huddle together in their shacks, not far from hotels and homes, from restaurants and markets.

This essay originally appeared in Newsclick (India).

 

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

July 08, 2020
Laura Carlsen
Lopez Obrador’s Visit to Trump is a Betrayal of the U.S. and Mexican People
Melvin Goodman
Afghanistan: What is to be Done?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
The End of the American Newspaper
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Merits of Medicare for All Have Been Proven by This Pandemic
David Rosen
It’s Now Ghislaine Maxwell’s Turn
Nicolas J S Davies
Key U.S. Ally Indicted for Organ Trade Murder Scheme
Bob Lord
Welcome to Hectobillionaire Land
Laura Flanders
The Great American Lie
John Kendall Hawkins
Van Gogh’s Literary Influences
Marc Norton
Reopening vs. Lockdown is a False Dichotomy
Joel Schlosberg
“All the Credit He Gave Us:” Time to Drop Hamilton’s Economics
CounterPunch News Service
Tribes Defeat Trump Administration and NRA in 9th Circuit on Sacred Grizzly Bear Appeal
John Feffer
The US is Now the Global Public Health Emergency
Nick Licata
Three Books on the 2020 Presidential Election and Their Relevance to the Black Live Matter Protests
Elliot Sperber
The Breonna Taylor Bridge
July 07, 2020
Richard Eskow
The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill
Daniel Beaumont
Gimme Shelter: the Brief And Strange History of CHOP (AKA CHAZ)
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s War
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Racism May be Blatant, But the Culture He Defends Comes Out of the Civil War and Goes Well Beyond Racial Division
Andrew Stewart
Can We Compare the George Floyd Protests to the Vietnam War Protests? Maybe, But the Analogy is Imperfect
Walden Bello
The Racist Underpinnings of the American Way of War
Nyla Ali Khan
Fallacious Arguments Employed to Justify the Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Autonomy and Its Bifurcation
Don Fitz
A Statue of Hatuey
Dean Baker
Unemployment Benefits Should Depend on the Pandemic
Ramzy Baroud – Romana Rubeo
Will the ICC Investigation Bring Justice for Palestine?
Sam Pizzigati
Social Distancing for Mega-Million Fun and Profit
Dave Lindorff
Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops
George Wuerthner
Of Fire and Fish
Binoy Kampmark
Killing Koalas: the Promise of Extinction Down Under
Parth M.N.
Back to School in Rural India: Digital Divide to Digital Partition
Ed Sanders
The Burning of Newgate Prison: a Glyph
July 06, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Foreign Election Interference: Who is to Blame?
JoAnn Wypijewski
On Disposability and Rebellion: Insights From a Rank-and-File Insurgency
Marshall Auerback – Jan Frel
There’s a Hidden Economic Trendline That is Shattering the Global Trade System
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Just and Talented Government for Our Hazardous Age
Manuel García, Jr.
Biosphere Warming in Numbers
Ron Jacobs
Kidnapping Kids: As American as the Fourth of July
Tasha Jones
Pyramids. Plantations. Projects. Penitentiaries
Binoy Kampmark
Criminalising Journalism: Australia’s National Security Craze
Eve Ottenberg
Re-Organizing Labor
Mike Garrity
How We Stopped Trump From Trashing a Critical Montana Roadless Area in Grizzly Habitat
Nino Pagliccia
The Meaning of the 1811 Independence for Today’s Venezuela
Michael Galant
We Need a Global Green New Deal
Jill Richardson
Learning Not to Look Away
Marshall Sahlins
Donald Trump at 130,000 and Rising
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail