Pakistan News Service

Thursday Aug 18, 2022, Muharram 20, 1444 Hijri

War on Hunga

26 April, 2008

By Anwaar Hussain

Note : Hunga is Texanese for Hunger.

 What is hunger?  

When the glucose level of the liver falls below a threshold, a feeling is experienced that is called hunger, usually followed by a desire to eat. Although an average nourished human can survive for weeks without food intake, the sensation of hunger typically begins after a couple of hours without eating and is generally considered quite uncomfortable.

When hunger is allowed to persist untreated, it progresses into the next stage of hunger pangs in which contractions occur in the stomach. A single hunger contraction lasts about 30 seconds, and pangs continue for around 30-45 minutes, then hunger subsides for around 30-150 minutes. Hunger pangs usually do not begin until 12 to 24 hours after the last meal. However, if allowed to continue beyond 24 hours, these pangs progress to the next potentially debilitating stage of starvation.

Individuals experiencing starvation lose substantial fat and muscle mass as the body breaks down these tissues for energy in order to keep the vital systems, such as the nervous system and heart muscle, working. This process does not begin until there are no usable sources of energy coming into the body. Vitamin deficiency is also a common result of starvation, often resulting in anemia, beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy. These diseases collectively may cause diarrhea, skin rashes, and edema, ultimately leading to heart failure.

The chain occurrences of hunger, hunger pangs and starvation in a significant mass of population are a direct result of food shortage which may also be called a famine.

Historically, famines have occurred because of drought, crop failure, pestilence, and man-made causes such as war or misguided economic policies. Bad harvests, overpopulation, and epidemic diseases like the Black Death helped cause hundreds of famines in Europe during the Middle Ages, including 95 in the British Isles and 75 in France.

During the 20th century, an estimated 70 million people died from famines across the world, of them an estimated 30 million died during the famine of 1958-61 in China. The other most notable famines of the century included the 1942-1945 disaster in Bengal, famines in China in 1928 and 1942, and a sequence of famines in the Soviet Union, including the Holodomor, Stalin’s famine inflicted on Ukraine in 1932-33. A few of the great famines of the late 20th century were: the Biafran famine in the 1960s, the disaster in Cambodia in the 1970s, the Ethiopian famine of 1983-85 and the North Korean famine of the 1990s.

Take note please that starvation leads naturally to desperation. Every generation in medieval Europe suffered famine. The poor ate cats, dogs and the droppings of birds; some starving mothers ate their children and as late as in the 20th century, periods of extreme hunger drove Soviet citizens to cannibalism.

A dreadful scenario indeed, but are we there yet? Well, not exactly but we sure are headed in that direction. It is time to sit up and take note.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, more than 25,000 people died of starvation every day in 2003, and as of 2001 to 2003, about 800 million people were chronically undernourished. That was when the current global food shortage had yet not begun to hit the world.

There is no doubt any more that we are bang in the midst of the first global food crisis since World War II which the World Food Program says already threatens 20 million of the poorest children.

Consider the following;

The skyrocketing cost of food staples, stoked by rising fuel prices, unpredictable weather and demand from India and China, has already sparked sometimes violent protests across the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. The crisis threatens to plunge millions back into poverty and reverse progress on alleviating misery in the developing world.

The price of rice has more than trebled in some parts of the world in the last five weeks. The World Bank estimates food prices have risen generally by 83 percent in the last three years.

Sharply rising prices have triggered food riots in recent weeks in Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Guinea, Mauritania and Yemen. In Cairo, Egypt, the military is being put to work baking bread as rising food prices threaten to become the spark that ignites wider anger at a repressive government. Egypt also decided to suspend rice exports for six months to meet domestic demand and to try to limit price increases.

In Burkina Faso and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, food riots are breaking out as never before. In reasonably affluent Malaysia, the ruling coalition was nearly thrown out by voters who cited food and fuel price increases as their main concerns. In Indonesia, fearing protests, the government has revised its 2008 budget, increasing the amount it will spend on food subsidies by about $280m. Generally in Asia, governments are putting in place measures to limit hoarding of food grains after some shoppers panicked at price increases and bought up everything they could.

The Philippine government has started selling subsidized rice at military bases to ensure soldiers and their families have a sufficient supply of cheap grain, while other supplies are being stockpiled for the poorest members of society. Officials are raiding warehouses in Manila looking for unscrupulous traders hoarding rice, while in South Korea, panicked housewives recently stripped grocery-store shelves of food when the cost of ramen, an instant noodle made from wheat, suddenly rose.

Last month in Senegal, police in riot gear beat and used tear gas against people protesting over high food prices and later raided a television station that broadcast images of the event.

Unrest over the food crisis has already led to deaths in Cameroon and Haiti, cost Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis his job, and caused hungry textile workers to clash with police in Bangladesh.

Even in Thailand, which produces 10 million more tons of rice than it consumes and is the world’s largest rice exporter, supermarkets have put up signs limiting the amount of rice shoppers are allowed to buy.

In the beginning of this month, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, warned that 36 nations are at risk of social unrest because of the rising prices of food. “For countries where food comprises from half to three-quarters of consumption, there is no margin for survival,” he said.

The World Bank has issued an urgent call to rich nations to help stem rising food prices, warning that social unrest in poor countries is spreading and that 100 million people are at risk of being plunged deeper into poverty.

Although the rise in food prices is partly because of uncontrollable forces i.e. rising energy costs and the growth of the middle class in China and India, the rich world is aggravating these effects by supporting the production of biofuels. The International Monetary Fund estimates that corn ethanol production in the United States accounted for at least half the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years. This elevated corn prices which jacked up the feed prices. That in turn raised the prices of other crops - mainly soybeans - as farmers switched their fields to corn, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

There are several other reasons for the food crisis:

# The constant growth of the world population Vis-à-Vis the constant decline in the amount of arable land.

# The often irreversible loss of agricultural land caused due to climate change.

# Absence of genuine market reforms that abolish protective tariffs.

# Frantic speculation stampeding the hoarders.

Ironically, the World Food Program(WFP), a U.N. agency, estimates that it will need just $500 million on top of what donor nations have already pledged to fill what the WFP calls a global “food gap.”

The scribe has a simple one-step solution to the Global Food Crisis;

Stop the War on Terra, launch a War on Hunga.

This will not only divert the trillions of dollars from fighting terra to fighting hunga, it will also drain out the swamps of poverty, malnutrition and wretchedness in vast masses of global population, drying out the fertile recruiting grounds for Bin Laden types.

Enough of War on Terra, I say. It is time to launch a War on Hunga.

I am naive, eh?

Beware the fury of the poor then.


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