Opinions: Fighting hunger; property ownership, trade key to Africa's development

Secretary of State Clinton Identifies Hunger As "Key Priority" For Obama Administration

"For one billion people around the world, the daily effort to grow, buy or sell food is the defining struggle of their lives. This matters to them, and to all of us," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton writes in a Times of India opinion piece. According to Clinton, "chronic hunger" is a "key priority" for the Obama administration.

"The U.S. approach to food security will be informed by our experience with development," Clinton writes. "The truth is, we have spent too many years and too much money on development projects that have not yielded lasting results. But we have learned from these efforts. We know that the most effective strategies emanate from those closest to the problems, not foreign governments or institutions thousands of miles away. And we know that development works best when it is seen not as aid but as investment."

Clinton writes that although the effort "may take years, even decades ... We will maintain our deep commitment to emergency food assistance …" She concludes, "Revitalising global agriculture will not be easy. In fact, it is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive diplomacy and development efforts our country has ever undertaken. But it can be done. It is worth doing. And if we succeed, our future will be more prosperous and more peaceful than our past" (10/16).

The Link Between Hunger and Violence

"Every day we wake up to headlines and images of devastating violence in hot spots around the globe. … But beneath the headlines, there is another great challenge that is often the root cause of violence or its unintended consequences: increasing rates of hunger and an alarming lack of food," Samuel Berger, former national security advisor to President Clinton and a member of Friends of the World Food Program's board of directors, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

"Today, on World Food Day, we must understand that hunger and conflict go hand in hand. Millions of people in poor countries suffer the burden," Berger writes. "A crucial element to fighting conflict in poor countries is to ensure adequate food, proper nutrition and access to education. School meals programs promote education and nutrition by giving hungry schoolchildren at least one meal a day," according to Berger. He goes on to list benefits of school meal programs, noting that they "address chronic hunger and offer such key interventions as deworming, vitamin A tablets and education about HIV/AIDS and sanitary standards."

"Ensuring that no child goes to school hungry is the single greatest investment we can make in building prosperous, healthy and stable societies," he writes, concluding, "The United States and other developed nations must make nutrition a requirement in peacemaking strategies" (10/16).

Africa Needs 'Bottom Up' Solutions

According to Julian Morris, executive director of the International Policy Network and the writer of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, "If Africans are to weather their existing and future climates, the solutions must come from the bottom up."  

"Although thousands of individuals … have been saved by Western charity and taxes, millions more have suffered and died needlessly from famine in East Africa in the past quarter century," Morris observes. "But their suffering was not caused by a lack of aid. Nor was it caused primarily by climate change (Western-induced or otherwise). Rather, it was and is the result of policies in the affected countries that inhibit freedom and incentives to trade, own land, and invest in diverse, prosperity-enhancing economic activities," he writes. According to Morris, when "trade is restricted, people are forced to remain subsistence farmers. So, when drought occurs, the majority suffer and many die." Morris illustrates his points with examples from different countries.

Morris notes that "the West still incentivizes the political elite in Africa to impose rules from the top down, by providing 'aid' that lets them ignore their citizens." He concludes, "Let's stop 'aiding' these kleptocrats with our taxes. Those leaders who genuinely want to govern will have to stop interfering, so their people can own property and trade" (10/15).

Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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