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Action needed as hunger may claim more lives than virus

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'Yemen is but one example of an extreme hunger crisis' (stock photo)

'Yemen is but one example of an extreme hunger crisis' (stock photo)

'Yemen is but one example of an extreme hunger crisis' (stock photo)

Sadly, it came as no surprise to see Oxfam Ireland’s Hunger Virus briefing – including details of 10 of the world’s most extreme hunger hotspots – coincide with news reports from the UN that the people of Yemen are on the brink of famine, again.

This too at a time when the UK has just announced that it is to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite concerns that such arms will be used in Yemen contrary to the laws of armed conflict and fuelling further hostilities that exacerbate human suffering.

Ravaged by more than five years of war, Yemen is now considered, amongst the multitude of crises and human suffering globally right now, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Two-thirds of the population – 20 million people – are at-risk of starvation, and nearly 1.5 million families currently rely on food aid to survive. Within this bleak picture, women and children are particularly affected, with 1.4 million pregnant or breastfeeding women and over two million children suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition.

The ongoing conflict has decimated the country’s infrastructure, restricted food imports, and led to mass unemployment.

As of July, there are over 1,300 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections in Yemen and over 300 deaths. However, with only half of the health system functioning and limited capacity to test for the virus, these figures are likely to be grave underestimates.

The closure of borders and supply routes in response to the pandemic has also severely disrupted supply chains in a country that imports 90pc of its food. This has led to food shortages and price increases, especially for basic items such as wheat flour and sugar as well as fuel essential to pump water from deep natural reservoirs. Continued fighting, despite numerous calls for a ceasefire as the humanitarian situation deteriorates, has also hampered humanitarian access. As well as this, humanitarian aid, already in decline before the crisis, is severely stretched.

Yemen is but one example of an extreme hunger crisis. We live in a world where millions of people go to sleep hungry on a planet that produces enough food for everyone – 12,000 people could die per day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to Covid-19, potentially more than will die from the disease itself.

Governments must contain the spread of this deadly disease but it is equally vital they take action to stop the pandemic killing as many – if not more – people from hunger.

Colm Byrne

Humanitarian Manager, Oxfam Ireland

 

Alarm bells ringing for us all – even when we think rationally

The WHO has stated that there is “emerging evidence” that Covid-19 virus particles are out there, floating around in the air. If that is indeed the case, then wearing an unsealed piece of fabric over your nose and mouth that has pores 640 times larger than the virus particle is not going to do anyone any good. A fully enclosed biosuit perhaps, yes.

Unfortunately, fear and propaganda has meant for many, their capacity for rational thought has also gone into lockdown. If one tries to get past the fear and propaganda and think rationally and objectively, can anyone genuinely say that there isn’t even one little alarm bell ringing somewhere?

Peter Keating

Newtownshandrum, Co Cork

 

Labour will pay the price for cosying up to the Government

I hear the Labour Party voted with the Government not to allow questions to be asked of Barry Cowen regarding his conviction for drink driving on a provisional licence four years earlier. There are a lot of bereaved people in this country who lost loved ones in similar situations. They would certainly want to know how he could drive on a provisional licence up to his 49th year.

I think this is the last hurrah for Labour leader Alan Kelly, like some of his immediate predecessors who destroyed the party cosying up to parties with different ideologies. I predict Labour will be no more after the next election and a similar fate could befall the Greens in quick succession.

J O’Connell

Co Galway

 

Expansion of surveillance state helps unravel empire

It's no coincidence that the unravelling of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell empire has accompanied the expansion of the surveillance state. No longer, it seems, do the intelligence agencies need gofers to co-ordinate their blackmail stings on prominent persons. I imagine now it can all be done more straightforwardly and/or remotely.

Many will see the arrest of Maxwell (and previously Epstein) as a step in the right direction. However, the seedy underworld which controls most aspects of our lives – actual and perceptual – has just changed track and is learning more sophisticated means to use and abuse us.

Louis Shawcross

Hillsborough, Co Down

Irish Independent