Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

A growing humanitarian crisis in North Africa

Posted by Charles II on March 1, 2011

Robert Fisk:

The Libyans watched from an open window of the immigration post, leaning out to see the 20,000 fleeing Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Iranian workers heaped up against the border wall. They seemed quite unconcerned, shirt-sleeves rolled up, moving to a window closer to this crowd. Already up to 75,000 have struggled into Tunisia, but yesterday the crossing system collapsed as thousands of men, almost all Arabs desperate to escape Muammar Gaddafi’s state, fought with local Tunisians who – under the eyes of the army – attacked them with stakes and iron bars.

Many of the soldiers hurled plastic water bottles and biscuits into the masses of refugees who began to jump the border wall in their desperation, heaving family members and baggage through breaks in the cement. Clichés run out when faced with such chaos and unnecessary suffering. “Insupportable” was the word that came to mind yesterday. Most of these 20,000 had gone without food, water or sleep for four days. How is it possible that people should suffer so greatly at a mere border post?

Officials turned up with anodyne words of fearful irrelevance. Josette Sheeran, who rejoices in the title of executive director of the World Food Programme, stared at this ocean of humanity and announced: “We are doing all we can – we are working through this situation. And it’s never too late.” But it was.

Food is in short supply in Libya, of course. But the uprisings and economic disruption mean that food will be in short supply throughout the region. I think there’s the potential for a widespread crisis. I can recommend ANERA and Oxfam, as well as the WFP as organizations you may wish to consider donating to.

Via Bondad, John Parker of The Economist on the food supply:

The end of the era of cheap food has coincided with growing concern about the prospects of feeding the world. Around the turn of 2011-12 the global population is forecast to rise to 7 billion, stirring Malthusian fears. The price rises have once again plunged into poverty millions of people who spend more than half their income on food.

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