Two weeks ago I learnt that my host father in Malawi was facing some financial difficulties.
This week my friend told me that his mother in Malawi said that there is a food shortage in the country.
Today I realized that the two were related. But I don’t think I would’ve cared about the latter if it wasn’t for the former.
Actually, Malawi isn’t the only country in Africa that is currently facing a food shortage problem. Many other countries including Ethiopia are affected as well. The relatively poor harvests of last year are partially to blame as are the irregular weather patterns that bring floods and disease. Perhaps the government also bears some responsibility for the sufferings of some of its citizens because they manage the apparently abundant food reserves yet some people are feeling the strain of last year’s poor harvests. That is not to say that everybody in Malawi is on the brink of death – some people are managing just fine. However, food insecurity as a country is reportedly one of the worst in the last few years.
However, none of this is reflected in the mainstream media in Canada or the United States. I mean, sure, food shortages aren’t exactly domestic news material and there is so much going on in the world internationally that something like this is probably difficult to slip in among the crowded boxes of an 11.75″ X 21.5″. Yet that is exactly the problem. A man dying of starvation in Malawi is not “new” news. Why is that? Is it because it’s “just another famine in Africa?” Or is it because the famine is not severe enough to be a famine but is merely a food shortage?
One of my former colleagues from the Chikwawa District Water Office challenged me today when I inquired about the food shortage. He asked me if I was asking because I wanted to donate. My immediate internal reaction was defensive.
‘I’m still a student. I don’t have a steady income and a ton of loans. Besides, doesn’t donating just create systemic dependence?’
I skirted around the uncomfortable question with some unsatisfactory response about not having an income or knowing where to donate to which he said something along the lines of ‘If you ask, you will find a place.’
And that made me uncomfortable because, in some ways, he was right. If I really wanted to donate, I could probably find a way. So instead of saying “I can’t donate,” a more honest response would be “I don’t want to donate,” as uncomfortable as it may be to say that.
I don’t want to donate.
My reasons are legitimate, for me. I DO have student debt and I DON’T have a secure income at the moment. I DON’T WANT to risk being financially insecure in the immediate future so I’m being selective about my spending habits.
Yet I think I need to acknowledge that I’m not going to contribute financially to this problem out of CHOICE and live with the uncomfortable feeling of that decision, regardless of any moral judgment.
I’m not really sure if there was a point to this blog post. I just felt like I needed to organize my thoughts because I had a lot of strong feelings about the issue this week.
For people who wish to donate or help
in some other capacity, I strongly urge doing research so that you can have the most positive impact. From just the news articles I’ve seen after a preliminary google search, it seems like the World Food Programme (WFP) and Unicef are trying to alleviate the situation. I’m not too sure what kind of methods they are using for this particular issue but it’d probably be a good place to start.