FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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).

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail