While people starve, corn sits untouched

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2002

If you think the world has gone mad, you have reason.

What else can one make out of the fact that in a country where millions of people are starving, its leaders refuse to accept free food?

In Zambia, which has a population of 2.5 million, many are starving from one of the periodic food shortages that wreck the tortured continent of Africa.

Aid agencies and the United Nations offered food, much of it from the United States. Some has been delivered, but the government is barring any further shipments, while the population is eating leaves, twigs and even poisoned berries, The Los Angeles Times reports.

An elderly blind man says, "Please give us the food. We don't care if it is poisonous because we are dying anyway."

It is not poisonous. The corn has been genetically modified and people in many countries, including the United States, eat it every day.

But Zambian officials say it may pose health risks -- to people who are starving to death.

"We would rather starve than get something toxic," said Levy Mwanawasa, president of Zambia.

Judging by his photo, the corpulent politician hasn't missed many meals himself, despite the imperial "we."

The Post, which claims to be the largest independent newspaper in Zambia, reported that a member of Parliament had "saved" hungry villagers trying to get the U.N. corn from a storage facility. He said that Mwanawasa had promised three weeks earlier to send other food to the starving people -- and that he had heard nothing since then.

In a contested election earlier this year, Mwanawasa's opponents nicknamed him "the cabbage" because of his incoherent speech, occasional memory lapses and the widely held perception that he suffered brain damage in a traffic accident in 1991.

U.N. officials should fly planes over the villiages of Zambia and drop the food to the starving residents.

If they would drop a few weapons as well, it is likely that Zambia would have a new president soon -- one who might have an ounce of compassion.

--Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

Sept. 17

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