Man-Made Disaster

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Dec 2017 10:39:19

If we track the history of famines in the world during last hundred years, we will find that most of them have been man-made disasters and climate or food production had little role to play.

In war-torn South Sudan 1.25 million people are facing starvation, double the number from the same time last year, according to a report by the United Nations and the Government released recently. This country could once again plunge into famine in 2018, warn humanitarians and the Government. Humanitarians blame the worsening situation on South Sudan’s continuing conflict, which is nearing its fifth year and has killed more than 50,000 people.

In February, the world’s youngest nation declared famine in two counties in Unity State, the world’s first formal famine declaration since Somalia in 2011. As of September, 6 million people -- 56 percent of the population -- were experiencing severe hunger with 25,000 South Sudanese in humanitarian catastrophe in Ayod and Greater Baggari counties. South Sudan’s widening war has made food production impossible and delivery of aid dangerous and difficult. Rights groups are calling on all parties of the conflict to provide immediate and unfettered access to humanitarian agencies. It is being said that both Government and opposition forces have used food as a weapon of war, ranging from restrictions to civilian access to food, actively preventing food from reaching certain areas, systematically looting food and markets and homes and even targeting civilians carrying small amounts of food across front lines.

As South Sudan enters the dry season, locals and aid workers are expecting the situation to get worse. Communities are becoming more desperate to feed their families and people have started using “extreme coping strategies”, including going into sparsely inhabited forests, swamps and grassland and finding “increasingly unhealthy wild plants” while they search for food. If we track the history of famines in the world during last hundred years, we will find that most of them have been man-made disasters and climate or food production had little role to play. Though the blame is often shifted on climatic issues, it is largely lacunae in administration or deliberate negligence by the authorities that lead to such mass annihilation of humanity. This is like pushing a large section of helpless people to the brink of disaster and desperation that only leads to further violence and disruption. A weak Government, unable to tame social dissension and resolve ethnic and political crises has ditched its people in Sudan.

Five years is a long time in any country’s political history and any war-ravaged zone that suffers such uncertainty and bloodshed for so many years is bound to be left bedraggled and depleted of resources. When people are forced to flee their home and hearth, who will till the land? How can we expect productivity in a poor country if people are not able to work? Unless peace prevails and a conducive atmosphere for peaceful coexistence is ushered in by efficient administrative breakthroughs and innovations in social engineering, the region is only going to sink further.

The possibilities of a revival of fortunes are bleak in any case. The country is war-torn for long and its trade and economy are in the doldrums. The raging civil war is also a grim reminder to the world how war and violence can ruin a nation and its people. If the resources are equally and judiciously used and distributed among the needy or those in trouble, all reasons for crime and aberrations can be rooted out.

It is years of inequitable distribution for the greed of a handful that leads to crisis and scarcity. The world has ample to feed everyone but there can never be enough to satiate the greed of all, as Mahatma Gandhi had refrained.
We have a social system in which the rich are getting richer by hook or by crook while the poor are getting more and more marginalised and deprived of resources. This basic flaw in the societal structure that dominates the demographic mapping of our times leads to the bloody fights and skirmishes.

The rich would fight doggedly to save their property while the poor will always hound them to garner a share from that for themselves. The opposition in Sudan should also behave more responsibly and rather than resorting to armed conflict that is leading nowhere, they should adopt a democratic and constitutional approach through dialogue and communication to reach a truce. No one has ever won a war.
In hindsight, all war is collateral defeat in some way or the other. A country gains something but loses much more. And the worst hit are always the commoners. The after-effects of war continue for decades. The worst crime is to wage war against one’s own people and community, or use them for petty political or pecuniary gains. This is short-sightedness of leaders and administrators that does no one any good.

It is only peaceful and democratic countries which have prospered and progressed. Those mired in war and violence have only brought their own doom. Global peace is itself in jeopardy and that has mostly to do with incapable or divisive leaders. Wherever there have been strong and visionary leaders, countries have performed better in all parameters.

It is a traditional bane of third world countries that internecine factions have always sparred against each other abetted by their corrupt leaders while the west has progressed using science, technology, better infrastructure, healthcare, education and law and order as their development planks that has ensured a better life for most people, thereby weeding out any major chances of a disruption. The poorer and war-ravaged countries should take cues from progressive democracies and replicate those good practices and models for their own good.

The case of Sudan lends before us a picture of gloom and hopelessness which civilisation in its mad rush for power and money has spawned. Food crisis caused due to human failure or deliberate attempt, which could be prevented, is an unpardonable crime against humanity. It is a brazen misuse of power to starve people to death. The UN must play a pro-active role in stemming the crisis pestering the region and powerful nations who always meddle in others’ affairs, must now be seen here too, taking up the responsibility to bring peace. Public opinion must be generated and awareness campaigns launched by the UN in association with other stakeholders to bring the issue to the fore and mobilise global opinion and action.

The UN should utilise its peacekeeping forces to normalise the situation in the zone, which is the first criteria for the prosperity of the people and the region. South Sudan needs a rebuilding and the world should aggressively support such a project in whatever way they can. By the way, today large populations across the world are vulnerable and face the same fate if things are not wisely tackled in time. Sudan teaches us many lessons.