The other Niger scandal

Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA operative in retaliation for her husband publicly debunking the Bush administration lie that Iraq had attempted to obtain “yellow cake” uranium from Niger. But there’s another scandal involving Niger that has been getting much less press… the famine striking 2.5 million people, and the 150,000 children who could starve to death as a result.

Of course, droughts and locust plagues happen, so it’s not the famine that is the scandal, but rather the failure of the rest of the world to respond to it in a timely fashion. According to Jan Egeland, a top UN aid official, this tragedy was widely expected and months in the making, yet the international community acted slowly, if at all.

“Niger is the example of a neglected emergency, where early warnings went unheeded,” Mr Egeland told the BBC.

“The world wakes up when we see images on the TV and when we see children dying.”

Well, if pictures of starving children in Niger are what it takes to get the world’s attention, here you go:

Starving child in Niger

I’m not sure what to do about this tragedy, but Doctors Without Borders has volunteers on the ground, and is taking donations.


  1. 1

    tom spews:

    sadly, yet another african country that can’t seem to feed itself. Any takers on when, not if Zimbabwe will be joining Niger in this little exercise. Or will Mugabe kill or the poor before they starve, he already drive away or killed most of the FARMERS.

  2. 2

    tom spews:

    wow…note to self “proof read more”….that last sentance should read “Or will Mugabe kill all the poor before they starve, he has already driven away or killed most of the Farmers.” Goldy …maybe an edit function? snap snap

  3. 3

    Richard Pope spews:

    Here is the public information on Niger from the CIA World Fact Book (what an appropriate source!):

    They have 11,665,937 people. 3.65% of their 1,266,700 square kilometers of land can be farmed. That is 46,234.55 sq km of total farmland, or about 0.00396321 sq km per person. Slightly over one acre per person — not a lot of farmland.

    Each woman in Niger has an average of 6.75 children born alive. Although 12.169% of children die before they are one, most of them do not. Niger also happens to be 80% Muslim.

    Evidently, a lot of people in Niger are starving. But if every woman in America decided to start having seven children (or even six, since our infant mortality is lower), America would also be starving to death within a few generations.

  4. 4

    Nindid spews:

    Sounds like we need to provide good access to birth control and family planning there… I am sure the Republican Congress and Bush will get right on that.

  5. 5

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    So what exactly did Clinton do in his 8 years that ultimately lead to this disaster??

  6. 6

    JCH spews:

    Tha blacks in Niger do NOT need funds from evil racist hateful whites in America! It must be Reagan’s or Newt’s fault that Africa is a shit hole. Maybe Bush is at fault. It doesn’t matter that billions after billions of American taxpayer’s money has been dumped in Africa only to be “handled” by black “leaders” like Mugabe. Whites in America must be made by Democrats and the MSM to feel guily and to pay more…….you know, like Detroit and Philly!!!

  7. 8

    Captain Pike spews:

    re 5: And just when did you stop beating your wife, Mr Cynical? Now you’re starting to live up to your namesake. And, no, we haven’t forgotten about Rove , Libby, and their masters: Bush and Cheney.

  8. 9

    Captain Pike spews:

    y brother in law says that in his culture Alberto Gonzalez is what is known as a, “Tio Taco.”

  9. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Africa is a basket case. Overpopulation, tribal rivalries, and failed social institutions work together to create incessant warfare, grinding poverty, and intractable oppression. It is truly a Dark Continent, and I’m not optimistic that the cycles of violence and starvation dominating human existence there can ever be tamed. Perhaps Africa is a microcosm of a coming world-wide implosion of the human species. It’s hard to believe this planet will be able to sustain mankind’s follies forever.

  10. 12

    L. H. Smith spews:

    The only people who can save Africa are the Africans. The West’s habit of throwing money at the problem and/or forgiving debt is not going to solve Africa’s problems.

  11. 13

    David spews:

    Well, even if you don’t think we can, or should, help in Africa, we should at least be getting more news about the tragedies happening there. Callous attitudes about Africa aren’t that surprising, considering that most people are just reacting to their own preconceptions and biases.

    In today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof takes journalists (especially the TV networks) to task for declining to cover the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, choosing instead to act like “irresponsible gossips” interested mostly in covering celebrities.

    Most Americans seem to agree with that assessment; column in today’s P-I reports a Pew Research Center poll in which “75 percent of Americans said news organizations’ reporting is most concerned about ‘attracting the biggest audience,’ while only 19 percent said it was ‘keeping the public informed.'”

    Thanks for the BBC photo, Goldy, and the Doctors Without Borders link.

  12. 14

    JCH spews:

    13, DAVID……..I think you need to open your OWN wallet and send a big check to Harare, Zimbabwe. I really think you need to do this today. [hehe]

  13. 15

    Goldy spews:

    Let me just chime in for a moment, that historically speaking, it was European colonization that destroyed Africa’s indigenous cultures and economies, and thus Western nations at the very least share some of the blame for the horrible economic and political morass we left behind.

    But that is entirely besides the point.

    The point is, this famine was predicted months in advance, and the rest of the world ignored calls to finance and organize relief efforts that could have prevented this tragedy. Indeed, much of the starvation is not simply due to the lack of food, but to the high price of millet, the staple food crop. Many children are dying for lack of money, while grain sits in warehouses. (That’s the free market for you.)

    While the drought and the locusts could not have been avoided, much of the suffering could have.

    I’m not assigning blame to one country or another, or to any administration… there is plenty of blame to go around.

  14. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    This is a bit off topic (okay, a LOT off topic) but while we’re talking about Niger and its uranium, I’ll that according to the current issue (July 2005) of National Geographic, nuclear power can’t replace oil as an energy source on a long-term basis because the planet has only a 50-year supply of nuclear fuel.

  15. 17

    Thomas spews:

    but Goldy when is it Niger’s fault? who’s running the joint?, (so shoot me if I don’t happen to know anything about the inner workings of Niger’s goverment) this country is lambasted and verbally berated for setting itself up as the world cop, but when life sucks really bad, for whatever reason, and we don’t fall all over ourselves to rush out and fix it were told we failed and are less than. I know this area of the world has been exploited in the past, but how many generations will it take before Africans, make Africa work, 10…100….1000. South Africa has been changed for what 10 yrs, Rhodesia gone for at least 30 yrs. The whole communist struggle there is pretty much over. Then other than a few notable countries, why does the whole place appear to be disfunctional…..

  16. 20

    JustCurious spews:

    Roger Rabbit @ 16
    Careful with those estimates. We would have been out of oil in the 90’s if we believed the estimates from the 70’s. Current oil deposits exceed those early estimates.

  17. 21

    JustCurious spews:

    Ben Schiendelman @ 19

    ‘Mr. Cynical: I’m curious, what did Clinton do to cause this?’

    Nothing. (I couldn’t pass it up.)

  18. 22

    Goldy spews:

    Thomas @17,

    All I can say for sure is that it is not the fault of the 150,000 children who could starve to death without massive, international relief.

    Why is it that our nation doesn’t seem to give a shit?

  19. 23

    Ben Schiendelman spews:

    I tend to agree, but I’d still like to know what he has to say in that regard. I mean, we do now have NAFTA.

  20. 24

    Mark spews:

    For all of you that are ticked off that various world governments have done nothing…

    Why not donate to the various groups like WorldVision ( doing relief work in Africa and other parts of the world?

    I’m not endorsing WorldVision personally, but they are local (Federal Way), ECFA audited and 87% of the money goes to relief programs. When was the last time you got 87 cents of value from your tax dollar??

    And for those of you who shrink away like Dracula from anything involving a cross, you can target your donation to “basic needs” and the money can only be used for that purpose.

  21. 25

    Dr. E spews:

    Richard Pope @ 3

    ” But if every woman in America decided to start having seven children (or even six, since our infant mortality is lower), America would also be starving to death within a few generations.

    That is perhaps one of the stupidest arguments I have heard in a long time. You are implying a direct causal relationship between the number of live births and starvation. Then, you posit that such a birth rate would cause widespread starvation in the US. Therefore, you seem to suggest that high birth rates in Niger are a major factor in this current famine.

    Shame on you. I mean really, shame on you.

    You need to do a bit more research before making such disgusting assertions.

  22. 26

    David spews:

    Goldy wonders, “Why is it that our nation doesn’t seem to give a shit?”, as if he didn’t know the answer.

    “I’m gonna give you a little advice, Claire. Scrape ‘em off. You wanna save somebody? Save yourself.”

    — Frank Cross (Bill Murray), Scrooged

  23. 27

    Ben Schiendelman spews:

    Dr. E, it’s logical. Rather than making personal attacks, why don’t you educate us?

  24. 28

    JustCurious spews:

    Goldy @ 22

    The US has little regard for human life. You might possibly say that it is because GW has numbed us since 9/11 by blasting innocents. I would say that the prevalence and acceptance of abortion does the same thing.

  25. 29

    christmasghost spews:

    goldy…i hardly think you can call niger a “free market” could throw money at this all you wanted to…but it would still just end up[sadly] in the pockets of despots.
    so where is the UN? as a “functioning” world body can’t they read and find out where there help is needed?
    these people need real help. no one can look at the pictures of those kids without feeling something…….
    the problem is…throwing money at them won’t help.
    and dr.e….richard pope is right.when you live in a country that has famines on almost a regular schedule having that many kids is a recipe for disaster. as for the comments about birth control…it’s muslim…good luck to you. women and kids are not high on their list of priorities. or haven’t you noticed?

  26. 30

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Ben & just curious—
    Clinton did NOTHING period. That’s correct. He was too busy being blown by a fatass.

  27. 31

    christmasghost spews:

    goldy and curious…….are you kidding? the US doesn’t care? we are the most generous nation on the planet.
    hey if you care so much why don’t you stop asking for beer money and start asking for aid money? and then every week instead of going out drinking [and musing about how evil and selfish the rest of us are] you could put THAT money where your mouth is too.

  28. 32

    Dr. E spews:

    26, 28

    No, it’s not logical. The argument would look something like this:
    x causes y (x = high birth rates, y = famine)

    The cause (high birth rates) may be a genuine factor in the severity of famines, but is insignificant (logically speaking), in comparison with other, more significant causes. Thus, we have an illogical argument.

    High birth rates are not the cause of famine, any more than owning 3 cars would be a cause of famine. Famine is caused by a shortage of available food. High birth rates can compound the severity of a famine, but they do not cause it. There are other, more significant factors: amount of arable land (which RP does mention, and also causes a problem with his conclusion, in my opinion), weather, water supply/irrigation, environmental pests/diseases, etc. These are factors that high birth rates can in no way change (except perhaps by having more people to build irrigation projects, or to deliver pesticides). Comparing this situation with a similar hypothetical in the US is a false analogy, because these factors are different. Thus the argument still is not logical.

    What I’m reacting to, however, is the implication that the women of Niger are somehow behaving irresponsibly by having so many children. By stating that famine would result in this country as a result of similar high birth rates to me suggests that the premise of the argument is that the women of Niger are acting irresponsibly by having so many children, thus ensuring famine will ensue. If I am misreading RP’s argument, then I’m overreacting and I apologize; still, I don’t think the argument is productive.

    Xmasghost – I don’t dispute that high birth rates exacerbate famine, to the point of being a “recipe for disaster.” But RP has not given any indication as to why the birth rates in Niger, like in so many parts of the developing world are so high.

  29. 33

    Dr. E spews:

    Mr. C @ 29

    “Clinton did NOTHING period. That’s correct. He was too busy being blown by a fatass.

    If $2bn in FY2000 equals “NOTHING”, than you have a strange concept of nothingness. The rest of your comment is irrelevant.

  30. 34

    Goldy Loves Terror spews:

    And of course, it never occurs to Goldy that the real reason that so many people in Africa are starving is that their forms of government are all based on oppressive collectivist structures that have their origins in the ideas of Goldy’s heroes, Marx, Kant, Hegel, etc. When people don’t have freedom, it’s no surprise that they remain poor, uneducated, without incentive or the opportunity to improve their lives.

    But there’s always a liberal asshole around like Goldy and Sally Struthers to show us a few pictures of starving children as an attempt at an argument that’s really a logical fallacy with an appeal to emotion and guilt.

    If we let Marx loving collectivists like Hillary Clinton into power here in the US, it won’t be long before the US has the same problems as Africa.

  31. 35

    Dr. E spews:


    “the real reason that so many people in Africa are starving is that their forms of government are all based on oppressive collectivist structures that have their origins in the ideas of Goldy’s heroes, Marx, Kant, Hegel, etc.

    I’m gonna call you on this one. Give me names of countries and their governmental structures. And, while you’re at it, tell me what Kant and Hegel could possibly have to do with it. (FYI, last I checked, Niger didn’t have a Marxist regime.)

    “When people don’t have freedom, it’s no surprise that they remain poor, uneducated, without incentive or the opportunity to improve their lives.

    Really? How do you explain current-day China, or the Soviet Union in the decade or so after 1917?

  32. 36

    christmasghost spews:

    dr.e……..i would surmise that the high birth rate is caused by S-E-X.
    that aside, the history of the african continent is one of famines and droughts.and starvation. and no matter how much we all want to change that…we cannot. you cannot change nature that much.
    now the down side of helping would be this….many more children born under the false assumption that the food would keep coming no matter what.birth rates in humans and animals both rise sharply when the females are leaving a starvation mode and going into a gaining mode. that’s just the way sneaky old nature works.
    so what we really need here is a real fix. that would be education, birth control and definitly food aid.
    without the birth control [and like i said before with muslims good luck] the whole process is doomed to repeat over and over again.
    part of this problem,sadly, is a complete lack of responsibility not by our government but by theirs.and the egos of the men. okay…it has to be said. these men are more concerned about having sex and kids than with reality. and until that changes…and with the muslim religion, good luck…this whole sad process will continue to repeat.

  33. 37

    christmasghost spews:

    i have noticed something else [which i’m sure just my observing it will make don’s head blow off]….this has to be said. go and look at all the pictures you can find…everywhere. the children are starving. the parents are not. they are well dressed and wearing gold. even some of the starving children are wearing gold. i realize this is part of the culture….but do you all realize this is also part of the problem?

  34. 38

    Food for Thought spews:

    This thread reminded me of a bit I read on an Engineering board I frequent, I’ll post a piece of the text as it’s somewhat topical to the discussion.

    I find the topic of CFC’s (refrigerants) to be a good example to use. CFC’s were banned (again on junk science) world wide. Everyone believed this was great for humanity. What I found most disturbing is that the majority of 3rd world countries were just getting refrigeration that was dramatically improving their lives. The elimination of CFC’s drastically impacted (and continues to do so) these people as their source of refrigeration (which was made available due to the combined efforts of thousands of good hearted people in the early 21st century) is now unaffordable to them. They cannot upgrade to other refrigerants as the equipment will not accommodate them and the cost is too great. Now, in following the junk science of banning CFC’s, many people and governments made drastic changes that allowed CFC’s to be eliminated drawing funds from the very people that need them the most. Their continued suffering to this day is our (scientists and engineers) fault for letting laypeople manipulate data that belongs in our world to be interpreted by us.

    I firmly believe that helping the environment does not equate to human suffering…….and subsequently, should never equate to human suffering.

    Another item to consider is that storage, preservation and the logistics of *delivering* the food to those who need it is quite a bit more difficult than just tossing more dollars at the problem. It doesn’t do much good if the relief aid ends up feeding the army of whatever despot happens to be in power at the time. To some degree, aid money ends up providing the incentive to keep their people starving.

    It does not however, make the situation any less tragic.

  35. 41

    marks spews:

    Dr. E @35

    “When people don’t have freedom, it’s no surprise that they remain poor, uneducated, without incentive or the opportunity to improve their lives.

    Really? How do you explain current-day China,

    Er, I have to call you out on this Dr. E. Current day China remains a cesspool of poor humanity, while the apparatchik remains very well off. Interestingly, the government of China has relaxed some oppressive rules, presumably to keep the proletariat happy, yet the limited scope of this relaxation continues to keep 1.29 billion out of 1.3 billion Chinese in fetters…

  36. 42

    Dr. E spews:


    Okay, call me out. My remarks vis à vis China have to do with the growth of the entrepreneurial class without the citizens of the country at large having “freedom”. I’m defining “freedom” as political freedom here, since the original post at 34 made no reference as to what the poster’s idea of “freedom” pertains.

    I’m not trying to argue specific numbers, but rather to point out that the corollary “freedom fosters prosperity” is just that, a corollary.

  37. 43

    marks spews:

    Respectable, Dr. E.

    I would note that the current policy in China is 1 child per family, which seems to bolster an earlier argument on ability to feed the masses. It would seem China has found a method to keep it’s proletariat class strictly proletariat, while allowing her privileged to reap the rewards of population servitude.

  38. 44

    Richard Pope spews:

    Dr. E,

    Your reasoning is just plain silly. The more children, the more mouths to feed. Niger has a growth rate of 2.63% per year. In a 100 year period, the population will be 13.4101 times as much as it is now, or over 156 million people. If they can’t feed just under 12 million now, how can they possibly feed over 156 million in 2105?

    The same population growth rate in the USA would give us a little over four billion people in this country in 2105.

    I certainly don’t blame the women for having so many children. The fault is more properly placed on the men, in such a sexist and patriarchal society. Women who are educated and liberated do not wish to have (and don’t have) nearly so many children.

    It is always disgusting to see so many children starving, when very few of their parents are starving. If children were fed first, this might change the society’s dynamics pretty fast.

  39. 45

    Richard Pope spews:

    Niger also has a very insensitive government. There are months worth of food stocks in government warehouses, but the government doesn’t want to give it to starving people — they want to sell it to folks:

    With government officials in Niger having no qualms starving children to death, how can you believe them when they said Saddam Hussein didn’t ask about buying their uranium?

  40. 46

    christmasghost spews:

    richard pope…..absolutely on the money.
    if societal changes are not made first, all the foreign aid in the world will not make a difference. sadly, i’ll wager that the majority of the starving children are also female. and what kind of culture would approve of starving children when the parents are NOT starving also? answer…. patriarchal.
    you have to take a hard look at that fact….and recognize that it exists before you can fix anything.
    and the change would have to come from the people themselves or it will not happen.
    yes we need to help…but not by throwing money at them. that never works….and will we never learn that?

  41. 47

    Dr. E spews:

    RP @ 44, 45

    Thank you for clarifying. I think I misread the intent of your original post, so I apologize at going off the handle. I certainly would not argue (as I’ve said above) that high birth rates can exacerbate famine, and you did right to name other issues (governmental corruption, etc.) — that is, in part, what I was getting at by bringing up the need to consider other factors that contribute to famine. (That hardly makes my logic “silly”, i.e. that scarcity of food causes famine, since that is essentially the definition of famine.)

    As you and Xmasghost above point out, some order of societal change is necessary to make a country like Niger sustainable, but then is also some amount of modernization (especially in terms of sanitation, health care, and other vital aspects of infrasturcture). One of the reasons (in my opinion, anyway) that liberals get their hackles up when we hear of such catastrophes is because the industrialized countries really just don’t seem to give a damn about areas of the developing world that offer few resources and/or are strategically located. Instead, we pour our tax revenues into the military-industrial complex at the expense of both domestic programs and foreign aid and development moneys.

    I would take issue, however, with your conflating this issue with the Niger-yellow cake scandal, which is somewhat off-topic here (Goldy’s lead-in notwithstadning) and has been fairly exhaustively investigated elsewhere—by parties with far more expertise on the matter than most of us.

  42. 48

    Thomas spews:

    Goldy @22,

    no arguement 150,000 perfectly innocent kids,….but they are all innocent from N. Korea, to the slums of Mexico City, to Ethiopa, to Somalia, to the reported 700,000 who lost there slum homes in Zimbabwe. There all innocent….thats the given, and life doesn’t care….my question is….we got starving kids in this country just not as many…why are the kids of Niger any more special then anywhere else…and remember you probably can’t feed all of them… pardon me if I sleep well tonight

  43. 49

    Goldy spews:

    Thomas @48,

    Actually, we could feed them all, if we really wanted to. There is no worldwide food shortage… the issue is distribution. And if the industrialized nations really wanted to feed all the starving children, we could do it, just like we wiped out smallpox. Hell… the US could do it by itself.

    It’s just not a priority.

  44. 50

    Thomas spews:

    we could feed them all…if we all worked for free….this isn’t Star Trek…..we have money issues already how much of your income are you willing to do without currently? Maybe blogging pays better than most, but I’m guessing most people are concentrating more closer to home. On top of the fact some places have these not very nice men that like using food as control, how do we handle them? and really the issue only goes away until the next famine or drought, aren’t we doing a diservice to those we help. Wouldn’t it be better to move them to a place better suited to supporting life?

  45. 52

    DamnageD spews:

    whats more embarasing, sending 4/5 of our police, er, i mean army to fight a “war” in a country with supposed issues…or bring near last on the totem pole for donations to help the dying souls in Nigeria?

    …and no, i dont have the friggen source, but were are offering jack shit to help them, last time I looked.

    So much for setting the example. Looks like we , again, ignore true humanity when big business has nothing to benefit. What a disgrace!

  46. 53

    christmasghost spews:

    DamnageD@52…….you say you don’t have a source. do you mean you don’t have one to link to or quote…or are you assuming the worst about the US?
    the war in iraq [whether you agree with it or not] did not prevent us from helping after the tsunami. they are not mutually exclusive.

  47. 54

    leland spews:

    I am appalled by the fact that many of the parents of these starving children actually appear to be well-heeled, with their clean, crisp, brightly coloured garments and expensive looking jewellery; they also look well-fed, and do not appear to be suffering at all. Contrast this to 80’s Ethiopia. Given that there is known to be food available in the markets in Niger (again, contrast with 80’s Ethiopia) I am puzzled as to why these adults do not trade/sell some of their worldly goods in order to obtain food for their kids, or at the very least, forego the odd meal themselves so that their children may live. There has been very little mention in the news of this glaringly obvious fact (presumably the PC camp in the media are responsible), but I think that this may be adversely affecting the attitudes of those in the developed countries towards the Niger crisis. Any thoughts?

  48. 55

    liz spews:

    I’ve read your various comments and have to put in my 2cents worth. Maybe having children doesn’t cause famine but if I lived in a mud hut in a country where famines were the norm I wouldn’t have 7 or 10 children. If I could see that I couldn’t feed one child why in the world would I continue to have 8 or nine more. It can’t be just the Muslim religion, although that could be part of it. It can’t just be ignorance, although that could be part of it. Part of it could be because it is a patriarchal society. Or it could be all of these things and more. But I do know this, if I had a child, I would not sit by and let that child starve. I might move to some area where there wasn’t famine and death. I might steal or beg but one thing for damn sure, I would NOT have 7 more children so I could sit by and watch them starve too.