Enda Kenny announced last week that the Irish government would use their presidency of the EU Council in the first 6 months of next year to target the prevention of global child hunger. The announcement was made at a conference on the issue called by British Tory Prime Minister David Cameron who will lead the G8 next year.
Under capitalism the basic necessity to feed oneself and ones family is a daily struggle for millions of the world’s poor. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 925 million people do not have enough to eat. Children are particularly badly effected; of the 10.9 million children under five that die in developing countries each year, malnutrition and hunger-related diseases account for 60% of the deaths.
Enda Kenny and David Cameron join the long list of leaders in International capitalist institutions such as the EU and the G8 that like to talk about poverty reduction and delivering on eliminating world poverty. But how much will they actually deliver?
David Cameron is calling for more crop research by the private sector and for Food and Pharmaceutical multinationals to provide food to the world’s poor.
This is a failed strategy. We cannot rely on big business and the capitalist market to solve these major world problems. Capitalism is a system that bases itself on the pursuit of profit ahead of the interests of the majority, such a system is completely incapable of guaranteeing access to basic needs such as food, medicines, shelter for much of the world’s population.
The FAO recently published a report showing that world food prices have increased by 6% in just one month in July. This is as a result of a number of factors including climate change, wars, conflicts and commodity speculation in the world markets. These are all symptoms of the capitalist system for which the real price will be paid by the world’s poor who will find it even harder to provide for the most basic need of food.
It is particularly hypocritical to hear Enda Kenny talk about focusing on child hunger. This Fine Gael / Labour Party government like to talk about defending children’s rights.
Action speaks louder that words
This government is faithfully implementing the IMF / EU programme of austerity which includes cuts that are disproportionately hitting children and their families.
The latest figures available (from 2009) show that one in every eleven children in Ireland lives in consistent poverty. This represented a significant increase from the figures in 2008. The same study showed that nearly 19% of children (over 205,000) were at risk of poverty.
With more austerity measures implemented over the last 3 years the situation today is undoubtedly worse. This was acknowledged by a UNICEF report ‘Measuring Child Poverty’ earlier this year which stated, “Front-line services for families are everywhere under strain as austerity measures increase the numbers in need while depleting the services available. It is also clear that the worst is yet to come.”
Large aspects of the welfare system in Ireland is reminiscent of a Dickens novel with many vital services being outsourced to charities and voluntary organisations. As part of the government’s austerity agenda these organisations have faced massive cuts in their state funding. In a situation that is not uncommon among charities providing welfare services the children’s charity Bernardos has faced a 15% cut in its state funding since 2009 and has even closed its doors for a week this month in a bid to save money.
The Irish government have also implemented vicious cuts in the One Parent Family Payment plunging many single parent households into poverty. They have also slashed education budgets which has meant loss of SNAs and more crowded class rooms. Using the bogus pretext of fairness and equality the government are also preparing the ground for cuts to Child Benefit.
It is very clear that for this government, talk is cheap. The reality is that they will continue to put the diktats of the capitalist market before children and their families which only means more poverty both in Ireland and internationally.