Binah (binah1013) wrote,

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I am shallow, but pleased

I am a subscriber to Salon. Sometime in the last year (I guess at the redesign), Salon made it possible to comment on all their stories. I ignored that feature for quite some time. Now, reading the responses is often part of the ritual of reading the articles for me.

Of the "letters", the Salon editors go over them and pick some out to be "Editors' Choices" and mark them with a red star. You can sort the letters by newest first, oldest first and Editors' Choices Only.

So here's the shallow bit. Of the measly two responses I've sent in, both have garnered the red star! Whee! I'm literate and probably not a dumbass! *giggle*

Okay, on to something a bit less shallow.

Today's letter was in response to an depressing article on African food aid and how our government specifically is not exactly the most helpful. Well, if you're ADM or Cargill, we're hella helpful, but to Africa? Umm, yeah, we're sending over food, but not in a way that would help the most. The US Govt, corportate whores??!? Gasp! Clutch the pearls! Say it ain't so, Joe!

Basically the article was about priorities (five days of the Iraq war would feed Africa for 3 years), but specifically how we provide our aid.
"While most of the world gives aid agencies cash that they use to buy food locally, 99 percent of the food aid provided by the U.S. is purchased from American farmers at market prices and is then shipped overseas on U.S.-registered vessels. (The vast majority of container ships are registered in countries like Liberia and Panama; the U.S.-registered container ships used in the feeding program are almost an anachronism, kept alive in part because of this aid program.)

By general consensus, U.S. food aid is inefficient and overpriced, and can be damaging to the African economy. The Financial Times called the American type of assistance "a subsidy programme for rich world farmers," such as American agro-giants Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, based in Paris, this kind of direct food aid can take five months or more to arrive and costs 50 percent more than if the assistance had been given as cash used to buy food locally; also, it tends to undercut local markets. If the assistance had been provided as cash, it would have added $750 million to the approximately $4 billion in food aid already donated by rich countries."

The responses to this article weren't what you'd expect from a nice liberal publication like Salon. There's lots of resentment out there about pouring money into what seems like an endless pit of need that never seems to get any better. Really harsh stuff.

Here's my letter, which was partially in response to the harsh stuff and the horrified response to the harsh stuff.

It's Geographically-Specific Donor Fatigue

I think the reason that there are so many unsympathetic responses is that the situation never seems to get better no matter what assistance is given. After decades and decades, it seems like we never see results. I'm sure there have been success stories, but do they ever make it to western media? And since we don't tend to see success stories, does that mean there hasn't been a signicant large-scale success?

I also think it's naive to say that education of women will make things better. What makes us think that African women are in control their sexual lives? I've talked to AIDS pediatric researchers who have worked in Africa. Men have the muscle and the power. As soon as women hit puberty, they're having babies. How do you empower a 13 year old girl?

We say we want to empower women (Are men are a lost cause?), but then we're sending them mixed messages. Saudi Arabian women still are not allowed to drive. And the Catholic Church thinks contraception is a sin. And yet we want women to insist their men stay faithful and wear condoms? From what power do they derive this authority? Withholding sex? That'll get them a black eye at a minimum.

How do you solve the problems of Africa? Greater minds than I seem to not have the answer. The West seems invested in the status quo, but it just seems that we need a paradigm shift.
Tags: africa, famine, red star, salon, shallow

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