Archive for February, 2012

Famine in Africa

The article “Hunger, Healing, and Citizenship in Tanzania” by  Kristin Phillip’s describes  hierarchy that the government of places itself in through the distribution of food to the poor. The government maintains their power because they are the “providers”, even eventually being the “providers” of the middle class. A patriarchal image forms, with the government being seen as the overall caretaker and the lower and middle class seen as dependent. Food aid was a political tool the government used to gain power during the drought. This selfishness on perpetuated the famine.

This is linked to genocide because this is a tool to oppress a whole society, taking advantaged of one’s control and the others’ vulnerability. Many die because those who are appointed to take care of them use this power for their own political advantage.  The government has complete control fver the Tanzanian community in this sense, especially because those receiving food aid become too fearful to speak up for help.

Newsoftpedia claims that family will take over Tanzania and other African countries by 2030. If the US and other developed nations contributed more effort into helping Africa’s famine, the issue can be solved within 5 years. This is a social structure that is formed by the rich nations to exploit the poorer ones. More info can be found here:


Civilian Sacrifice (EXTRA CREDIT BLOG)

How many civilian deaths are worth a militant death? In the eyes of the CIA, this ratio holds little relevance, especially when dealing with non-American civilians. According to the London Bureau of Investigative Journalism, since 2004 at least 316 U.S. drone strikes have struck Pakistan which have resulted in between 2,412-3,063 deaths. Although the Bureau claims that many of these were militant deaths, only 138 named militants have been killed by the attacks, while 178 children have been killed, and 467-815 civilian deaths have been reported.

U.S. government officials assume that many of these deaths were of low-ranking militants, but the blind killing of hundreds of innocent women and children in order to get to these militants seems excessive. In addition to these casualties, at least 1,158 people are known to have been wounded. In August 2011, the London Bureau has found that there have been 8% more drone strikes and 40% more casualties than previously reported. I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are more. Isn’t this systematic killing of Pakistanis based on questionable assumption resonant of genocide? Should the killing of innocent civilians be justified if a few terrorists are killed?
People assume that these civilian deaths are acceptable because they live in an area where they are probably influenced by militants, but these people forget that Pakistani civilians are also victims of terror. Since 2009, at least 6,000 Pakistanis civilians have been killed by terrorists, more than the total number of deaths from the tragic 9/11 attacks. But nobody hears or cares about these deaths because to the average American, these people live far away in a land full of terrorists and get what they deserve. It is easy to forget the vast majority of Pakistan’s 187 million population does not consist of extremists. However, actions such as the drone attacks, in which many innocent civilians are killed, do have repercussions and have increased anger amongst the local population. Many people do not realize that Pakistanis are outraged at their own corrupt government, and feel as if they do not have a voice in decisions regarding their country. As the economic gap widens within the nation, the poor are suffering now more than ever, while they are being attacked not only by their own, but also by foreign governments. When looked at from another lens, it is not too difficult to understand the conditions which force those in poverty to turn to extreme and desperate measures.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy gives interesting insight into a Pakistani Taliban school:

Benevolence or Manipulation?

In Kristin D. Phillip’s article, “Hunger, Healing, and Citizenship in Central Tanzania” the author discusses how low socioeconomic status was manipulated so that politicians can gain power by distributing food aid. Therefore, under the guise of attempting to feed the have-nots and cure famine relief, Tanzanian leaders are able to amass support. The people of Tanzania support the government because they have no one else to go to.

The article reminded me of the Cambodian genocide. After gaining independence, the newly established democratic republic government had not been doing so well which was one of the factors that allowed the Khmer Rouge communist forces to come into power and eventually commit mass genocide. When the city was evacuated, people were promised a better future and a new improved society. Instead, 2 million perished under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Additionally, the US government supported the Khmer Rouge with aid after their regime ended because the US was fighting against the Vietnamese at the time.

These events demonstrate how many underlying political and economic forces are in play when government promises better living conditions for their citizens (i.e. by providing welfare/food aid.) When developed countries assist a poorer country, there always seems to be a hidden agenda. In a recent article about US and North Korean relationships, the US was cautious about its food aid deal for political reasons; I’m not saying we should ignore the complex relationship between countries but this article implies that politics seem to dominate over a general concern for public health.

Learn more about the US’s food aid deal with North Korea:

Food As A Political Tool

Kristin Phillip’s article “Hunger, Healing, and Citizenship in Tanzania” discusses how food aid is essentially used as a political tool to keep the socioeconomic hierarchy in balance. The poor remain dependent on those in power for food, and are therefore forced to comply in activities asked of them by those in superior positions of power. Even foreign countries who give aid in the form of food often do so in a structure that allows them to maintain their role as a type of “father-figure” to which those receiving aid feel indebted. Most global institutions designed to distribute food aid do not tackle the root of the problem and develop self-sustainable solutions that the locals can take charge of after the aid providers are gone. But then again, this keeps the poor indebted to whichever agency is helping feed them. Through these social hierarchies, the rich and powerful basically have control over the food supply of poorer population, setting up a situation in which the poor must listen to the rich, or else have their health and access to basic needs jeopardized. This in effect, sets up a situation in which it would not be difficult for the powerful to ration food supply for political gains, creating a situation of genocide, in which a specific group is targeted and systematically destroyed.

Although it is wonderful that many aid agencies distribute much needed water and food around the globe, the issue of world-wide hunger could be further abated if aid agencies could lessen local dependence on different organizations to provide basic needs such as food and water. One nonprofit organization that does base its international projects on self-sustainable long-term solutions is Relief International. For more information about their different self-sustainability projects, please visit their website at


Food Politics

In Kristin Phillips’ article, “Hunger, Healing, and Citizenship in Central Tanzania” she discusses the politics of food. The people of Tanzania are being stripped of their agency because of their dependence on food. Food aid is converted into political power in order to acquire the people’s votes. Once the elections are over, the food aid trickles down to nothing until the next elections. By doing this, people do not protest the structures of power that is keeping them in poverty and keeping them dependent on food aid. They are often faced with food shortages, “in the last decade… the Nyturu ethnic group, have faced three severe food shortages. Interestingly enough, hunger and shame go hand in hand. Political figures are criticized when people die from hunger, and it’s so deeply connected with politicians, that regional government medicals officials were deployed to a village in order to counter the claims of deaths from starvation.

Governments have a duty to their people to make sure that its citizens, and what would even be ideal, is that there would be enough jobs so that people would have enough to buy their food and serve the economy. In a way it’s in a country’s best interest to provide for its citizens because when mass starvations occur, people are too weak to really contribute anything to the country.

In North Korean during the 1990s “widespread famine devastated North Korea, killing over 2.5 million, and perhaps upwards of 3.7 million.” It wasn’t the result of a natural disaster, but the result of government diverting its resources. Food is used to control the population, but the result has been many deaths, and by denying food the government participated in genocide by neglect

More on North Korean’s mass starvations:

Medical Ethics

In chapter eight, of Paul farmer’s “Pathologies of Power,” medical ethics is discussed, and he states that healthcare should be provided for everyone, he make a great point by stating that “if by everybody” we truly mean everybody” (212). Groups can easily be denied access to healthcare if they are not view as citizens of the nation. In a developing country, if a doctor does not provide healthcare to a patient simply because the patient does not have the proper passport or documentation, people would be up an arms for such an injustice to occur. Here in the U.S,. law have been passed—Prop 187—to prevent undocumented people from having any access to public services.

It goes back to who is considered human enough to have human rights and having access to healthcare. If people are not considered citizens than it is easier for them to be denied services, and it’s easier for them to be ignored just as senior citizens were in the Chicago heat wave.

More on Prop 187:

Article on Health Care Reform and Undocumented:

Changing the Face of Medical Ethics

The founding of medical ethics can be partly be attributed to the actions of Nazi doctors during the Holocaust. These “doctors” violated the sacred contract between physician and patient. While these heinous crimes are on the extreme end of the spectrum, are doctors living up to the expectations of medical ethics today? But first, what is forefront of bioethics today? In a chapter entitled “New Malaise” in Paul Farmer’s “Pathologies of Power,” Farmer argues that no, today’s bioethics is catered towards the privileged (ethical dilemmas include genetic testing, doctor-patient relationships, life-prolonging techniques, etc.) instead of considering a large percentage of the world’s population who are living in poverty, unable to access the healthcare necessary to sustain their livelihoods. Global healthcare equity should be at the forefront of bioethics and when we say healthcare for everybody, it should be for everybody as opposed to just the privileged.

However, even if health professionals and governments adopt this mindset, I still do not believe that we will ever come close to achieving global health equity. Who is obligated to pay for a global healthcare system and how do we not allow socioeconomic status to determine who gets better healthcare? Will the affluent really be willing to sacrifice the privilege of a high socioeconomic status in order to provide healthcare for the destitute? I don’t think so. Despite the intricacies of implementing a global healthcare system, health professionals and policymakers should, however, strive for global health equity as much as possible.

Read about complications for bioethics created by the Nazi era:

-Jessica Heng