Urbanization may be helping to alleviate famine–but the process is slow, and the human toll is large.
Aid workers employ a highly mathematical definition for the word “famine”: It means that at least 20 percent of families in a region face extreme food shortages and acute malnutrition affects more than 30 percent of the population; there must be two starvation-related deaths per 10,000 people every day. Richard Leakey says these numbers toll, like a distant bell, for all of us. For a certain Dr. Francis Kuria of the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, who published a well-reasoned column in the Daily Nation of Nairobi that quoted both the Roman poet Virgil and his country’s bleak ranking on theHuman Development Index, they ring the end, at last, for a venerable way of life and a 10,000-year-old economy. Of the nomads he wrote: “It’s time for the Turkana to leave their wastelands and settle down.” The optimists are few. Mostly, they are the desert wanderers themselves.
Go read the entire piece. Foreign Affairs is by far my favorite periodical, and this is a rare free bit–beautifully written and observed.