tanks or grain

If you were among those living in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti or Northern Kenyan today, which would you choose? An armoured tank, or the equivalent value of grain?

If you were among those living in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti or Northern Kenyan today, which would you choose? An armoured tank, or the equivalent value of grain?

A recent UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs statement noted an estimated 12.4 million people in this region desperately need humanitarian assistance. To meet this challenge, the UN office says $2.5 billion in official food and disaster-relief aid is required.

As of last week, only about $1.22 billion had been committed.

About two months ago, the Ethiopian Defence Ministry signed a US$100-million contract with Ukrspecexport of the Ukraine for 200 T-72 tanks, according to an UKRINFORM news release.

It ranked among the largest contracts of Ukrspecexport’s 15 years of operation.

“The tanks are a qualitatively new type of military hardware, which is equipped with a modernized power plant, guided weapons and armour system,” said the release.

“For Ukraine, this contract has major economic and social importance, its implementation will improve the capacity of the Ukrainian enterprises, create jobs and increase revenues.”

The deal links Ukrainian exporters, much to their delight, with the Ethiopian Defence Ministry for years to come. The expected repair and upgrade contracts are worth millions more.

Within a month, the Ethiopian government appealed to the world community for $400 million in food aid.

No one seemed to bat an eye at this ironic twist.

Dollars have been freely given to underwrite anti-piracy patrols on the sea lanes off this coast, linking Asia and Europe via the Suez Canal, or for other perceived terrorist threats in the Horn of Africa.

But try finding money for long-term, sustainable-development projects for water conservation or reforestation in this region – or for getting wealthy countries to agree to international trade reforms that foster the conservation of fisheries for coastal villagers and to protect small agricultural producers.

Drought has afflicted the people of this region for five of the last seven years.

The current catastrophe is not a surprise.

One Guardian article last month noted more than 10 million more individuals actually suffered in 2009 from the continuing failure of the international community along with local governments to deal with the socioeconomic and political issues amplified by the climatic crisis.

The Holodomor, in Ukrainian literally “death by hunger,” marked the period in 1932-33 when, by a very conservative estimate, 2.4 million citizens of the Soviet Union, primarily in the Ukraine, starved.

A draft resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last year attributed the famine to “cruel and deliberate actions and policies of the Soviet regime.”

Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate Indian economist, in his book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981) has argued starvation is “a function of entitlements and not food availability as such.”

How is the case of famine in the Ukraine in 1932-33, induced by Soviet policies, different from the counterproductive decisions, or the deliberate indifference of the global community to the famine in the Horn of Africa today?

In her book Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt saw the Ukrainian famine as a key point in the formation of our modern “atomized” society.

Arendt believed that our collective alienation from each other leads to indifference and inaction.

We must somehow instil a new sense of global solidarity in our communities and our governments that put people first.

The choice then between tanks or grain will be a “no brainer.”

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Most Read