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African child hunger is indeed a problem that we can solve – and should

Summary:
A new report telling us that child hunger - up to and including both stunting and death - is still a large problem in Africa. This is, - as with child hunger, child death, anywhere - a problem that can and should be solved. The question, of course, is how do we solve it all?Nearly half of all child deaths in Africa stem from hunger, study showsAlmost 60 million children deprived of food despite continent’s economic growth, in what is ‘fundamentally a political problem’When The Guardian tells us something’s a political problem we have to be careful. Often enough this turns out to be something that we here in the rich countries are responsible for - capitalism, markets, colonialism, racism, something. It is thus we who must change our ways in order to cease these impositions upon the poor.

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A new report telling us that child hunger - up to and including both stunting and death - is still a large problem in Africa. This is, - as with child hunger, child death, anywhere - a problem that can and should be solved. The question, of course, is how do we solve it all?

Nearly half of all child deaths in Africa stem from hunger, study shows

Almost 60 million children deprived of food despite continent’s economic growth, in what is ‘fundamentally a political problem’

When The Guardian tells us something’s a political problem we have to be careful. Often enough this turns out to be something that we here in the rich countries are responsible for - capitalism, markets, colonialism, racism, something. It is thus we who must change our ways in order to cease these impositions upon the poor.

The actual report does not put it quite like that:

Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem. It is the offspring of the unholy alliance of political indifference, unaccountable and bad governance, and economic mismanagement.

Politics, governance and economic management in Africa are now, given the end of that colonialism, the responsibility of the local governments. It is they that need to buck up.

We can aid, of course we can, and we can aid in three ways. The first is the obvious theoretical and empirical point. Child hunger decreases as a result of economic growth. Societies that are richer have, by definition, greater resources with which to take care of the children in them. This is how child hunger was solved here - yes, it has been, we have nothing at all left of the sort of poverty we’re talking about in this case - and how it has been solved everywhere else that it has been. Economic growth cures the problem.

How does economic growth happen? A bit more of that capitalism, those free markets, seems to do the job. Everywhere that has had them for more than a few decades is either already rich or is getting so. Those places that don’t aren’t and aren’t.

We can also aid in the process. As we’ve said many a time the best economic development programme that we can individually be a part of is to buy things made by poor people in poor countries. If child hunger in Ethiopia - just as an example - is something you’d like to see fall then preferentially seek out those shoes, those clothes, made in Ethiopia.

Finally, we can aid directly. As an example again, and only an example, we’ve long been taken with Mary’s Meals. They do one thing and one thing only - produce a school lunch for a poor and hungry child. No railings against The Man, no conferences on overturning the global economic order. Just child plus calories to make the world a better place. Their efforts cost about one tenth of an equivalent US government program attempting to achieve the same aim. Yes, cheap is to be praised as we get 10 times as much of the feeding done for the resources we care to send in that direction.

We do know how to end child hunger as we’ve done it ourselves and so has the rest of the rich world - and so is much of the developing world doing it. A bit more of that growth from the only socioeconomic system that has ever produced it, that capitalism and free markets mix. We throwing our weight behind the development through our consumption choices. And why not buy a poor child lunch for a year for £15?

We are indeed liberals around here in that we desire the world become a better place for the poor in it. It’s just that we’re pragmatic liberals in that we support those policies which actually achieve the goal.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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