Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Selfishness Is Gaining Ground"

"A U.N. report found that prices in markets in Niger have shot up sharply because of profiteering, said James Morris, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, speaking from San Francisco. Some traders, he said, have raised prices in anticipation of the arrival of aid groups, which often buy food locally to save on transport costs.

In the mostly Muslim nation, where the wealthy have a religious duty to set aside a portion of their income for the poor, some Islamic leaders said fewer and fewer are bothering to do so.

"There is nothing like generosity now," said Malan Hassane, the imam of a neighborhood mosque. "Selfishness is gaining ground." He maintained that humanitarian groups would not need to intervene if people here were more willing to feed one another.

The United Nations is attempting to provide food to 2.7 million people in Niger. Most serious cases already have come to Maradi, a city of 70,000 where Doctors Without Borders, an international aid group, has been treating hundreds of children a day. Admissions for serious malnutrition at the clinic, officials there said, are double the normal rate. ...

Longer-term economic policies may be working against a solution, according to some observers. In 1993, the government scrapped price controls at the urging of the World Bank and stopped heavy-handed interventions in grain markets by an import-export agency."

Craig Timberg "The Rise of a Market Mentality Means Many Go Hungry in Niger" Washington Post, August 11, 2005

Timbuktu, Mali. Gardens are sunken to protect from the desert winds and to be closer to the water table.

Photo credit: Galen Fry Singer


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