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Healthy Starvation

AIDS and Famine.

by Barnabas
February 12, 2003

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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.

Comments (2)

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Aunt Judy from Plainview, NE writes:
February 15, 2003
How do you know that we can turn the tide on starvation? Have we done it in the past? We have been trying to get food to needy people in specific regions for years, and the corrupt governments which rule do not allow the food to get to the people who need it. As much as I would love to see everyone in the world get enough to eat, I don't feel that the citizens of the U.S., ....Christians, .... mothers, ....or any other group dedicated to feeding those in need, can ever expect to accomplish very much more than we already do. But, yes, even saving one additional child is important, and I hope you, and others like you keep pushing for better ways to make that happen. I personally do not feel that money is the way. Personal time and personal contact ...feeding one person at your table, or taking it to theirs is the best possible way to make a difference. If we can do that to the least of those among us, then we have done a marvelous thing.

Concerning AIDS releif, I work with a prevention group which is trying to reach young people and adults at risk, with information which may help them protect themselves. We promote abstinence, not only from sex but also from alcohol, drugs and behaviors which put these people at risk. We also teach methods of safe and safer practices. Without trying to judge, we encourage these people to value their lives and those in their communities by taking precautions.

Consider that the US was not able to ignore AIDS, and condemn the homosexuals who were and are the hardest hit in the epidemic, as many people early in the epidemic tried to do. Now the group with the fastest growing numbers of infections are heterosexuals, particularly the young adults, and women. We have been able to offer some of those infected, drugs which improve their chances of living longer, and help for those people to take better care of themselves, and improve their chances of living life with some quality. The people of Africa have not had the access to those drugs and a society willing to invest in helping them, through education, treatment, and/or care. Some of those countries are so devestated with the disease that the majority of the people are suffering, and there is no way their government could possibly be able to take care of them, let alone educate them or treat them with expensive drugs. In those areas, our dollars can make a real difference. But then again our personal involvement would be even better.

We make the biggest impact one person at a time.

Barnabas from The Partial Observer writes:
February 15, 2003
Thanks for the excellent letter, with which I entirely agree.

When I said we can turn the tide I was using we as the President did, to refer to the government of the United States, which is the only entity on earth at this time that could turn the tide by not giving the corrupt national leaders access or control of the food we deliver, just as we will, I suspect, keep the AIDS program under our direct control.

If we can't turn the tide against starvation, we can't turn it against AIDS either.


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