People are starving to death in 2011. Why?

We've got the money, the logistical and security capability. There is a geo-political case and a mor

Serious question. Why, in 2011, are we letting people starve to death?

It's such a basic one, it almost feels trite to ask it. In fact, somewhere along the way, it ceased to be a question. More a statement of moral outrage. Or, depending on your perspective, one of supreme naivety.

But I'll ask again. In 2011, why are we letting people starve to death? According to the UNHCR 1,700 people a day are, as you read this article, streaming across the Somali border with Kenya and Ethiopia. They, to an extent, are the lucky ones. That figure doesn't include the elderly or sick that are left behind, or the children who died along the way.

Why? I don't just mean why morally. Why logistically; practically?

Cost? The UN refugee agency has just launched an appeal for US$144 million to provide emergency relief, about £88 million. Why are they having to even appeal for that amount of money? In global terms that's not petty cash, it's not even the change you'd find down the back of Barack Obama's sofa, austerity package, or no austerity package. Actually, try asking those people trekking across the Somali wastelands what austerity looks like.

A report by Brown University estimated the cost of the combined wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to be to be in the range of $3 to $4 trillion. The Treasury has admitted the UK alone is currently spending £3 million a day on the operation in Libya, and that's not even a proper war, just an "intervention". We've got the money. Were just not spending it right.

Again, why? In Somalia, innocent people are dying at the hands of brutal local warlords, as they are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. A region is being destabilised. As in the case of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The internal governance of the nation has imploded -- something we're spending billions trying to reverse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

I don't remember seeing campaigns for any of those operations. Charity singles. Celebrity appeals; "Just £5 will help buy the bullet that could stop one insurgent oppressing an entire village for a whole month".

When crisis like Iraq and Afghanistan develop we somehow manage to open the cheque book, get the heavy lift aircraft in the air, and ask questions later. But when people are starving to death in numbers al-Qaeda's most fanatical terrorists could only dream of, we are suddenly turned to stone.

Is it logistics? It can't be logistics. When the Haitian earthquake struck, satellite imagery was used to pinpoint the devastation in remote areas, and Nasa deployed special radar imaging aircraft to locate areas of possible aftershock. The United States Navy tasked an entire US carrier group to assist in the relief operation and the US Air Force managed over a hundred daily relief flights into and out of Port au Prince airport.

Some have said there are issues of security. World Food Program spokeswoman Emilia Casella recently told reporters that the UN is asking for assurances of security, and the ability to have full access to deliver and distribute aid in southern Somalia. Why? If there are people disrupting the flow of aid we should get a large number of those Marines and Paras, who are not going to be putting their boots on the ground in Libya, over to Somalia. Then if anyone tries to disrupt the relief effort, we can quickly and efficiently kill them. We've done it in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and demonstrated we're very good at it.

Is it a lack of political will? Again, it can't be. Even David Cameron -- hard cutting, belt-tightening, time to stop maxing out the credit card, David Cameron -- has publically stated overseas aid and development is a priority for his government. As recently as June, he told the Observer, "I don't believe it would be right to ignore the difference we can make, turn inwards solely to our own problems and effectively balance our books while breaking our promises to the world's poorest. Instead, we should step up, deliver on our promises to the world's poorest and help save millions of lives".

We've got the money. We've got the logistical capability. We've got the security capability. There is a regional case. A geo-political case. A moral case. We have the political will. I'm damn sure we have the public will.

So I ask again, and I'm genuinely not preaching, or making an appeal. It's 2011. People are starving to death. Why?

 

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French presidential election: Macron and Le Pen projected to reach run-off

The centrist former economy minister and the far-right leader are set to contest the run-off on 7 May.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will contest the run-off of the French presidential election, according to the first official projection of the first-round result.

Macron, the maverick former economy minister, running under the banner of his centrist En Marche! movement, is projected to finish first with an estimated 23.7 per cent of the vote, putting him marginally ahead of Le Pen. The leader of the far-right Front National is estimated to have won 21.7 per cent, with the scandal-hit Républicain François Fillon and the left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon tied for third on an estimated 19.5 per cent each. Benoît Hamon, of the governing Socialist Party, is set to finish a distant fourth on just 6.2 per cent. Pollsters Ifop project a turnout of around 81 per cent, slightly up on 2012.

Macron and Le Pen will now likely advance to the run-off on 7 May. Recent polling has consistently indicated that Macron, who at 39 would be the youngest candidate ever to win the French presidency, would probably beat Le Pen with roughly 60 per cent of the vote to her 40. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, he told Agence France Presse that his En Marche! was "turning a page in French political history", and went on to say his candidacy has fundamentally realigned French politics. "To all those who have accompanied me since April 2016, in founding and bringing En Marche! to life, I would like to say this," he told supporters. " 'In the space of a year, we have changed the face of French political life.' "

Le Pen similarly hailed a "historic" result. In a speech peppered with anti-establishment rhetoric, she said: "The first step that should lead the French people to the Élysée has been taken. This is a historic result.

"It is also an act of French pride, the act of a people lifting their heads. It will have escaped no one that the system tried by every means possible to stifle the great political debate that must now take place. The French people now have a very simple choice: either we continue on the path to complete deregulation, or you choose France.

"You now have the chance to choose real change. This is what I propose: real change. It is time to liberate the French nation from arrogant elites who want to dictate how it must behave. Because yes, I am the candidate of the people."

The projected result means the run-off will be contested by two candidates from outside France's establishment left and right parties for the first time in French political history. Should Le Pen advance to the second round as projected, it will mark only the second time a candidate from her party has reached the run-off. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reached the second round in 2002, but was decisively beaten by Jacques Chirac after left-wingers and other mainstream voters coalesced in a so-called front républicain to defeat the far right.

Fillon has conceded defeat and backed Macron, as have Hamon and the French prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. "We have to choose what is best for our country," Fillon said. "Abstention is not in my genes, above all when an extremist party is close to power. The Front National is well known for its violence and its intolerance, and its programme would lead our country to bankruptcy and Europe into chaos.

"Extremism can can only bring unhappiness and division to France. There is no other choice than to vote against the far right. I will vote for Emmanuel Macron. I consider it my duty to tell you this frankly. It is up to you to reflect on what is best for your country, and for your children."

Though Hamon acknowledged that the favourite a former investment banker – was no left-winger, he said: "I make a distinction between a political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

Mélenchon, however, has refused to endorse Macron, and urged voters to consult their own consciences ahead of next month's run-off.

The announcement sparked ugly scenes in Paris in the Place de la Bastille, where riot police have deployed tear gas on crowds gathered to protest Le Pen's second-place finish. Reaction from the markets was decidedly warmer: the euro hit a five-month high after the projection was announced.

Now read Pauline Bock on the candidate most likely to win, and the NS'profiles of Macron and Le Pen.

 

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.

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