AIDS and Famine.
Healthy Starvation_Barnabas-AIDS and Famine.
“Twelve million people in southern Africa – many of them children -- are facing extreme food shortages and the number is expected to grow. The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that there will be a shortfall of 4 million tons of food over the next year in the region.”
—Save the Children Home Page
“I ask the Congress to commit 15 billion dollars over the next five years, including nearly ten billion dollars in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.”
—President George W. Bush, State of the Union, 2003.
There may be good reasons to go after AIDS instead of after starvation. It may be argued that we have already been generous about going after starvation.
Even if that is so, we have not been disciplined about seeing to it that the food reached starving people in sufficient amount to “turn the tide.” The war against starvation is something like the war on terrorism—been there, done that, didn’t get much bang for our buck, so let’s try something new: war on AIDS, war on Iraq, whatever.
I’m not suggesting that the AIDS campaign should not happen, but I can’t see going forward with it without an equally determined attack on starvation. Otherwise it looks like we’re willing to save victims of AIDS in order to give them time to die of hunger. And by a determined attack, I do not mean the wasteful, casual hodgepodge of aid which salves our conscience even as it lines the pockets of dictators, stuffs the stomachs of their armies, and lets children starve.
Medical science is not yet far enough along to cure AIDS, but it’s simply food that cures starvation. There’s enough food to go around in our world if we are willing to distribute it to those who need it. If we expended the same level of discipline and commitment to feeding the starving as the President has promised to “turn the tide against AIDS” we would see progress on that front within weeks, not years.
Then why don’t we? Well, there never will be a vaccine against starvation. So we either pledge ourselves to feeding people perpetually, or we redo the system of food distribution long-term. Both are tiresome and contentious projects.. Some would say both are impossible.
Still, we don’t know that we can turn the tide against AIDS, while we know that we can turn the tide against starvation. There is no more reason to honor the sovereignty of a government that cooperates in the starvation of children than there is reason to honor terrorists. Since feeding some people is at least the moral equivalent of shooting others—which we seem willing enough to do—we have the right to act. What we may lack is the will to risk the trouble.