Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hunger

We might complain about gas prices, mortgages defaulting, layoffs, etc. But, we are still in a strong economy and are part of the wealthiest civilization humanity has ever known. We forget that others go hungry. We don't know what it is like to worry about where food will come from. As is the case throughout history, there are others who need help to survive and from what some experts are predicting, the number of those needing help with food and other basic needs might soon skyrocket.

"What we are seeing is unprecedented," says Catholic Relief Services food aid expert Lisa Kuennen-Asfaw. "If immediate needs are not met, and if resources and policies supporting increased agricultural production are not put in place soon, we are heading for a cascade of hunger the world over."

Prices are increasing sharply in every region of the world for some of the most basic foodstuffs traded on international commodity markets. The price of wheat has doubled in less than a year, while other staples such as corn, maize and soy are trading at well above their 1990s levels. Rice, which is the staple food for about 3 billion people worldwide, has tripled in cost in the last 18 months. In some countries, prices for milk and meat have more than doubled.

In Egypt, a 110-pound sack of wheat cost about $8 two years ago. Today, that same sack of wheat costs more than $25. As prices rise, more and more Egyptians are unable to afford their daily bread. They stand in long lines for hours to buy government-subsidized bread, missing work or school to do so.

In the West Bank, students are suspending their studies because of the increasing cost of food and transportation. Many households are depending on family members who live in other countries to send money in order to help them to survive.

In Ethiopia, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, whose urban centers take in the poorest of the poor, has seen a 20 percent increase in demand for services. As CRS' biggest partner in Ethiopia, the Missionaries of Charity tells CRS staff that the signs of the problem are visible; increasing numbers of women, children, elderly and disabled people are living on the streets.

The price of rice and other food staples has increased dramatically over the last 18 months.

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