Jul 19, 2010
At a press conference on July 9, Oxfam, an international charity, announced that the food crisis in the Sahara would soon become a “disaster” if urgent measures are not quickly taken. A spokesman explained that at least 10 million people in Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria face famine.
For nine months, the lack of rain has worsened a catastrophic situation. In the north of Mali, where families invest all their money in cattle, 40% of the livestock have died. The families are left with debt and no money to buy grain even when it exists in the market. Women are spending parts of every day foraging for wild food. In Chad, things are working out the same way – forced sale of animals, mass exodus from the cities, attempts to go abroad, fewer meals eaten. Some women have been reduced to breaking apart ant hills to try to find a few grains to eat.
In Niger, one in every six children under five years of age suffers from severe malnutrition.
This state of affairs results from the economic organization of society in these countries surrounding the Saharan desert, an economy incapable of satisfying the most basic needs of the population. The region has suffered for decades from what is called “food insecurity,” that is, malnutrition and danger of starvation. When locusts attacked the area between 1989 and 2004, no aid was given to eradicate this menace that removed thousands of acres of land from cultivation, though such treatments do exist. Even when development aid was promised by Western governments, it was not delivered.
But why does the situation persist? Although plenty of natural resources exist and are exploited by the former imperialist powers – like uranium and phosphate from Niger, cotton from Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali and oil recently discovered in the south of Chad – none of this goes to the population. The only beneficiaries are the many dictators supported by former colonial powers who grab their share of the riches off the labor of their populations.
In fact, this situation will not be resolved by food aid, even if the Western governments were willing to give it. Given the imperialist organization of the world’s economy, these disastrous results will continue.