Starving Children and Stolen Food

In late 1845 Daniel O’Connell led a delegation to the Vice Regal Palace in the Phoenix Park to appeal to the British Viceroy to close Irish ports to food exports. The dreaded potato blight had reached Ireland, heralding a major humanitarian crisis which escalated to Europe’s biggest 19th Century catastrophe.

CLONAKILTY, CO. CORK

CLONAKILTY, CO. CORK

In the interest of free market forces, O’Connell’s appeal was rejected. In failing health, O’Connell left Ireland for the last time in January 1847 and made a moving speech in the British House of Commons in which he appealed for aid for the starving Irish. Shortly after that, on medical advice, he left for Italy where, on 15 May 1847, he died in Genoa.

The potato was the staple diet of the Irish poor who had been forced, through colonial policies of dispossession and land grabbing, to subsist on a single crop. Meanwhile, as Ireland starved, food in abundance – wheat, barley, oats, sheep, pigs and cattle – was exported throughout the so-called famine.

It’s a memory etched deep within the psyche that makes Irish people sensitive and caring towards those who suffer starvation today.

It’s a memory that causes one to gasp with disbelief when reading an Associated Press report concerning recently ‘liberated’ victims of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria who are dying of starvation, and which states:

“The crisis in Maiduguri, where markets are filled with fresh vegetables and fruit is… what the U.N has called a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis”… where 2.5 million malnourished people have no access to food and drinking water. “

It is yet again another example of how the poor, through no fault of their own, find themselves cast into the trenches of a war not of their doing or their choosing. A war, like all wars, that has its roots in injustice, human rights violations, political and economic exploitation and, as we are increasingly seeing, the impact of Climate Change.

The Associated Press report also states that the Nigerian Government is carrying out an investigation into the theft of relief aid, destined for the starving masses, that was stolen, repackaged and sold elsewhere, for the benefit of the thieves.

AP reports that dozens of seriously malnourished babies and children fill the tents of the feeding centers opened by Doctors without Borders. The humanitarian organisation has revealed that between 10 and 25 percent of children in a 110-bed feeding center are dying, a high percentage even in an emergency.

You can read the full and shocking report here

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