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Dying for the tranzis

Posted by Helen Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Malaria, as my colleague has pointed out, is an ongoing and appalling problem in Africa, whose immediate solution is prevented by the bullying exercised by transnational organizations, in particular the EU.

Another tragedy is unfolding now and it, too, need not have been so bad. I speak, of course of the famine in Niger, where the various aid organizations seem to be unable to rescue the situation.

Of course, there has been a certain amount of discussion of what has caused the present famine, with the BBC helpfully telling us that it is probably global warming that is at the bottom of it all. As far as the BBC is concerned, global warming is at the bottom of just about everything but as Roger Bate, one of the world’s leading experts on matters to do with health in Africa, says:

“David Loyn of the BBC is even citing man-made climate change as a contributor: “Climate change has made Niger a more precarious place to live”. Loyn says it is curious that not since the great famine of 1973 has there been a cycle of three bad years in a row.

He says there was a drought last year, followed by locusts that ravaged the region. This year the rain has been patchy, so people talk of a second year of drought. This is the only evidence he presents that the drought is caused by climate change. He fails to note that the famine of 1973 came at a time when global temperatures were at their lowest for most of the past century. Popular opinion notwithstanding, the link between man-made emissions and drought in Niger is tenuous.”

And since when has tenuousness been a problem for the clever-dicks of the dear old Beeb?

What has been slightly less often mentioned is the following:

“Niger has one of the least free economies in Africa and, according to Transparency International, it is also one of the most corrupt. If its citizens were living in a country that protected their property better, encouraged free enterprise and trade, and was less corrupt, it is less likely that as many would be starving now.”

That, some people might say, is also non-proven, except that there is some evidence (of many millions of corpses) that a corrupt, unfree economy is more likely to cause severe problems than its opposite.

Of course, certain Western policies do cause direct harm, as Roger Bate points out. For example, policies that perpetuate aid dependence instead of trade and economic development have much to answer for across the whole of Africa.

In Niger, however, there has been a special problem: locusts.

“Locusts first moved south last year from their breeding grounds in north Africa towards west Africa, causing widespread problems last September. But now a new wave is hatching and, as vegetation disappears in the semidesert of the Sahel (Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Chad) at the end of the rainy season, the locusts are heading back north. After years of drought, this year’s heavy rains (in parts of the Sahel) have provided perfect breeding conditions. …

Chad and Algeria have been hit by swarms and all that their domestic politicians could fund, with the help of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization, was occasional aerial spraying. Cape Verde, Senegal, Mauritania, Libya and Niger have all had massive hopper presence and could have reduced the future swarms, but they could not afford to do much.”

There is, however, a way of stopping such an infestation but that involves the use of dieldrin, an insecticide banned by the UN Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Like DDT, dieldrin has to be used sparingly and in context. But the context was not foreseen by the countries that imposed that condition on the aid they were giving the hideously poverty-stricken countries of the Sahel.

As Roger Bate says:

“Dieldrin’s high persistence means it should not be used for anything else but stopping locusts, but because the countries that are now sending aid, and which designed the Stockholm treaty, do not have locust infestations, they forgot to exempt it for such use. Oh dear.

It is possible that the green alarmists maybe be correct that this recent drought and famine are made worse by man’s emissions of greenhouse gases. But what is certain is that these same alarmists promoted a treaty that is causing death.”

Ah but do they care?

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