Friday, February 03, 2017

famine news

I am sending money to a friend in Zimbabwe to help her family (mainly to pay school fees for her nephews and nieces) and I haven't heard from here in several months. I hope she is well: She has high blood pressure and has had a stroke, and the last email said she is having problems getting to a computer or using her cellphone to text me that she received her money. I can't send much: I am on social security, but every little bit helps.

The money crisis there is bad: They had uberiflation which got in the news a couple years ago, but later allowed people to use SARands or US dollars, which did help: I can now send her US dollars by Western Union and know she is getting the amount I sent her, not the amount that was legal by official government exchange, which was much lower than the money was worth.

now, if you know history, the lack of money in hand has caused frustration  and even hardship, so the latest item (VOA) says that the gov't is trying to have the rural folks use debit cards etc. instead of coins.

Zimbabwe has a fairly high standard of education, and when politics and financial collapse occurred (due to Mugabe's socialist policies, but also because of sanctions because Mugabe stole the land from White farmers to distribute to locals, and later to his friends. Of course the white farmers got the land from the people, but never mind).

So the educated skedaddled to get jobs elsewhere: in the UK but mainly in South Africa, often as illegal immigrants, who work to try to support the families back home.

Hollywood teds to blame Trump, but these problems are nothing new, and Hollywood has indeed had films/tv shows that examine the issues under the guise of Science Fiction.  If you saw the sciFi movie District 9, well, that started as a short film satire against the dislike of immigrants. So under Trumpie, will the US be District 9, or Alien Nation, which is about assimilating refugees from outer space?

Well, anyway, this year the rains didn't come again so hunger again is a problem in rural areas. Not getting a lot of publicity in the US MSM. Get Religion links to this story about famine in rural Kenya, which will break your heart.

The point is that governments are trying to cope, but not doing a good enough job. The Red Cross is there, as are many from the "faith communities", but Muslim and Christian, which are on the front line of assistance.

And the article ends with a plea for improving the ability to farm:

Meanwhile, Matolo and other many faith leaders in East Africa continue to stress better farming methods, the use of quality seeds and increased water harvesting. “When I see the people starving, I feel desperate. I also feel disappointed that many of the promises by government officials to deliver water have not been honored,” said Matolo. “If these people can get water for irrigation, the area will become the country’s bread basket. They are doing it in Israel, which is a desert. Here, the soils are very fertile and the people are not lazy.”
The US has responded by increasing aid: Trump just sent 4 million more, on top of the 131 million already sent there since June 2015, which the UN, US and other agencies will use to feed people and work on the infrastructure. (safe water and sanitation).

Relief net has a long article about the various aid agencies helping countries in East and South Africa during this drought.

Aid agencies are often used since money to local governments might just get diverted. China has helped in Zimbabwe when western aid was cut over "human rights" abuses etc. but of course, lots of their money got diverted to keep the Mugabe regime in power.

and they mention that in Zimbabwe, the corn and other crops are being destroyed by the FallArmy worm.  This will need pesticides, and GM crops might help control it.

 CNN Report here.


There are huge back stories about why not: From the countries emphasizing modernization in cities instead of farming, to the NGO's that too often oppose GM crops and the green revolution (and influence local governments to ban these modern crops), or NGO's who were more worried about animals than humans, to political instability and tribal politics, where one tribe got the money and the others were neglected. Indeed, in parts of Africa, a lot of the religious conflict is tribal conflict and/or traditional rivalry between farmers and herders.

Zimbabwe doesn't have a lot of religious conflicts, although there is a low grade one between between the Matabele (a warrior tribe and Zulu offshoot) and the Mashona (pacifistic farmers).

These famines are not new: as I said in an earlier post, they had a major one when I was there in the 1970's, and another in the 1990's. Sigh.

but one thing that is often left out of these stories (which in the western press alas often follow the  "westerners aid poor African" meme): that the Diaspora is supporting their families.

This HuffPost story is about remittances sent back from those who migrated to work elsewhere and are sending money home.

According to a report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2013, remittances sent to the world’s poorest countries including 33 African countries have increased to US $27 billion in 2011 from US $3.5 billion in 1990.

South African mining is a big source of these remittances, but then there are a lot of other stories out there about undocumented educated workers who do menial jobs to support their families.

This is the back story of all those Africans trying to sneak into Europe, or my previous post about Africans in China.

There are an estimated 400 thousand illegal black immigrants in the US: Some from Haiti or the West Indies, but many from Africa.

these immigrants have faces, and families. So do we gather them up and send them back, or work to integrate them? District 9 or Alien Nation? Anyone? Anyone?

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