Darfur: Starving for Freedom

Humanitarians are perplexed by the fact that, despite their hard work and the fact that it’s the epicenter of the world’s largest aid effort, starvation in Darfur is increasing at a rapid pace. As reported by The New York Times today, malnutrition among children in the region jumped this year to over 16 percent, a 3 percent increase from last year.

Dr. Rigal said he was not exactly sure why child malnutrition rates were rising. But he cited more insecurity, restricted access for relief workers and a fresh round of displacements because of tribal fighting.

“There are many hypotheses,” he said.

What most humanitarians either do not understand, or decline to address, is that starvation is not caused by lack of money or even lack of food — therefore, no amount of either will solve the crisis in that country. Malnutrition is a direct result of a lack of freedom.

Darfur is no different than any other part of the world—if humans are there, then there’s a source of food somewhere. People simply need to be free to pursue a livelihood and protection that guarantees that they have a right to hold whatever they grow or create.. In other words, humans need principled and reliable protection of their rights to life and property. The people of Darfur, as the people in any part of the world, require a government that defends the rights of ALL individuals, not a selective few, as is the practice of the Sudanese government (using the term loosely).

Preventing starvation depends entirely on a person’s ability to plan ahead. Hunter gatherers of old were at the mercy of the weather and the migration patterns and health of their prey. Only after humans began to cultivate the earth and heard animals could we achieve consistent nutrition and a release from dependence on the elements. But in order to undertake a long-term project like planting a season in advance, or building a water delivery system, people need to be assured that they will be free to reap the fruits of their labors. Dr. Rigal is right that instability and displacement are contributing to starvation in the region, but they are not the primary causes. We need to address the reasons why people in Darfur are being displaced and experiencing instability.

Until the government in that region respects and protects the individual rights of every person in that region, throwing money at the problem is like (pardon my French) pissing in the wind; it doesn’t go very far.