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More people now in Ethiopia face starvation than they ever did in the famines of the 1980’s. Why is this? Did Live Aid etc not deliver millions of tons of food to the starving? Well yes it did, but just feeding people without addressing birth control (voluntary or not) cannot work.

Ethiopia Facining New Famine

United Nations Population Division

When people are fed they will breed, feed more of the population better and they can breed faster. Not only that more people live longer so the population does not diminish as fast as before yet the rate of increase is expediential (continues to double but in the same period of time as the first doubling). The people who live longer will also have a longer fertility in their lives and in underdeveloped countries where children are used as insurance policies (against old age and poverty; have more children and at least one may get rich) this increased length of fertility is likely to be exercised.

I am not saying do not feed the poor and starving, how can you not want to alleviate human suffering? I only advocate that to do so without other measures is except in the very immediate short-term pointless.

The UN and aid agencies of course know this, they are not stupid. Unfortunately other problems cloud the issues. Many uneducated and unfortunately many educated people fail or resist seeing the direct link between famine and population control. At the basic level famines occur because there is too little food for too many people, forget any reasons why this imbalance occurs, that, in many ways is irrelevant. If you do not alter the fundamental equation of amounts of food for numbers of people nothing will change.

Why Africa is Still Starving

Food Production and Population Growth

How Population Growth Affects Hunger in the Developing World

Chronic Famine and the Immorality of Food Aid: A Bow to Garrett Hardin

And people are not starving because of lack of food production worldwide. Here in the West we waste between 30 to 50% of all food produced. The fact is we in the West would rather throw our food away than give someone a free lunch forever (that is the perception not my view!).

So what is stopping the aid that does get through doing the job it is intended to do, which is to ease suffering. Well it is many things, but towering above all of these the thing most stopping the aid doing good is the aid agencies themselves. Aid agencies and religion (or religious people) go hand-in-hand, a huge majority of these people are anti-abortion and anti-birth control. I am not going to get into the abortion debate, but let us look at birth control.

What are the objections to birth control? Fundamentally it seems to be a moral issue, a question of human rights. People, the critics say, should not have to be sterilised in order to receive aid.

Well ok if you take that view then there is no solution, and the aid given will be futile anyway. It would actually be better to do nothing because at least then less people will suffer (smaller population). So should we force people to have sterilization or is there another way?

Forcing people to do things against their will does erode human rights, whether or not you believe preventing someone’s choice to have children they cannot raise without suffering is always a good thing or not is not the point, because it is not your choice to make.

What about giving people things but only if they accept sterilization, that’s choice isn’t it?

No, an all or nothing ‘choice’, that is bribery. However there is a middle ground. Give everyone basic aid, but offer incentives for those people who accept being sterilized or have no more than one child. No one starves and no one looses the right to choose if they have children.

If we operate a birth control system like this in countries that require food aid though, aren't we being hypocritical not to operate a similar system here in the West, after all people here use a disproportionate amount more of the earth's resource than a person in the third world? Fair point but here in the West we can have more children because we can provide for them without free outside assistance, it is a question of wealth. However, in a perfectly fair world (like never!) using similar population control measures in all countries as suggested here would be the ideal.

China did a similar thing giving free radios and tax relief to one child families. This was not a perfect scheme and not always fair, it could have been vastly improved with more money to run it, which China did not have at the time. China’s human rights record is pretty atrocious and its number of deaths from famine is beyond biblical but at the same time one has to remember that it is the only nation on earth that has saved more lives than the entire population of the USA from starvation without any outside aid.

China's One Child Policy

Offering incentives to people to give up a choice of liberty, whether they are totally willing or not is not a perfect answer. Leaving aid agencies to operate the way they are is no answer at all because we are depriving the same people we claim to be trying to help of an even greater moral right; the right to effective aid.

Author: BSG