Appendix 6a - Famine

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]

"Children in famine... and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be." - Bertrand Russell

From the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine: "We invest rather large amounts of money in our medical welfare and the welfare of professors of medicine to do some very fancy stuff. Perhaps we should be feeding some people...."[80]

"The World Health Organization says that by 2000, a third of the world's children will be undernourished."

From a book called The Environment in Question: "The duty to feed a starving child in Africa is as great as the duty to feed a starving child sitting in the room in which we ourselves are about to eat."[81] From Central America: The Right to Eat: "You will never understand violence or nonviolence until you understand the violence to the spirit that happens from watching your own children die of malnutrition."

"Even when modest increases in aid to the world's poorest countries could save the lives of millions of children and women, development assistance to these countries is in a state of free fall," says Carol Bellamy, executive director of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). She adds, "Increasingly, industrial nations are determining by their actions, and by their inaction, which of the poor will live and which will die."[82]

From a Harvard School of Public Health address:

In a ranking of the top 20 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries in terms of their percentage of gross domestic product spent on overseas development assistance, the United States scores at the bottom of the list... [despite] opinion polls and surveys [showing considerable interest by the American public] in helping the poorest and most disadvantaged peoples of the world.... The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been quoted as saying that foreign assistance is like 'pouring money down a rat hole.'[83]

With Open Arms

We do give some assistance. According to the British Medical Journal, "The United States uses their 'foreign aid' as a method of transferring funds to their military industries, requiring the recipient governments to use their funds they receive to purchase arms." In 1993, The United States controlled nearly three quarters of the weapons trade to the Third World. Most of the American arms exports - 85% has been estimated - has gone to non-democratic and often brutal regimes.[84]


An article in Lancet, detailing where some of arms have helped, is entitled "If Children's Lives are Precious, Which Children?"

Homeless street children are regularly murdered and tortured in Brazil, Guatemala, Columbia and elsewhere. In one notorious case in July 1993, off-duty policemen opened fire on 50 children huddled together near Candelaria church in central Rio de Janeiro; six died immediately and two others were taken to the beach and executed. When these events were reported on the radio, most listeners voiced their approval, as did 15% of respondents in a community survey a week later. Many ordinary decent people in Brazil, who love their own children, do not refer to street children as 'children,' and when they die they are not called 'angels' like other children, but presunti (ham). To call street children in Brazil 'vermin' is to prepare the way for atrocity, but is it so very different to use 'collateral damage' for the shredding of Iraqi children and their mothers by Allied bombing during the Gulf War?[85]

A closer look at the American role in Appendix 6b.


[80] Moros, DA. "What Do We Owe People with Disabilities?" Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine 62(1995):116-123.

[81] Trusted, J. "The Problem of Absolute Poverty." The Environment in Question Cooper, DE, ed. Routledge, 1992:13-27.

[82] Kumar, S. "Humanitarian Aid for Children is Dangerously Low, Warns Unicef." Lancet 352(1999):820..

[83] Bloom, B. "It is Only a Matter of Implementation." 75th Anniversary Symposium of the Harvard School of Public Health, 1997.

[84] "The International Arms Trade and Its Impact on Health." British Medical Journal 311(1995):1677.

[85] Summerfield, D. "If Children's Lives are Precious, Which Children?" The Lancet 351(1998):1955.

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