Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Drought, Politics and War Lead to Famine. (Cover Story)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Drought, Politics and War Lead to Famine. (Cover Story)

Article excerpt

The reasons vary--war, political corruption and economic catastrophe among them--but whatever the cause, 840 million people in the world are malnourished.

In Guatemala, for example, farmers have lost up to 90 percent of their corn and bean crops due to drought. And the near collapse of the coffee export markets in neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua--prices are at an eight-year low--means lower wages for coffee pickers lucky enough to keep their jobs.

The unlucky ones, those who can no longer feed themselves or their families, look north to enter the United States illegally in search of work; others leave rural communities for urban slums, searching, often fruitlessly, for opportunity.

"What we're seeing is a slow-motion tragedy that has left hundreds of thousands of families, and especially their young children, hungry and malnourished," said Jed Hoffman, Catholic Relief Services regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The situation is perhaps even bleaker in war-torn Afghanistan, a nation whose political and social infrastructure was ravaged by decades of war and years of Taliban rule. A five-year drought has exacerbated an already disastrous situation, said Catholic Relief Services' Paul Butler, who returned to the United States earlier this month after a one-year stint administering aid programs in Afghanistan.

Catholic Relief Services has three offices in the country.

"The feeling in Afghanistan is that the process [of rebuilding and getting assistance] is moving much too slowly," said Butler. …

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