Opinion: To end gun violence we also need to end poverty / by Stephen Carnahan

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images

When I’m not feeling angry, I’m sad. When I’m not feeling sad, I’m angry. 

The sadness is because of the loss of young, innocent lives. It’s so hard to watch the news and see the faces of the children in Uvalde, Texas or parade goers in Chicago. It makes me so sad to know that there are people from California to New Hampshire who have been shot because…well who knows why? It makes me sad to know that people have been shot in large numbers because they were Black or gay or Jewish or just enjoying a music festival. Maybe even just driving down the road. I see our society closing its eyes to all this because its just too much to take. 

And I’m angry. I’m angry at a nation that has decided to let this happen. We alone of the developed nations of the world kill ourselves like this. We have decided we are okay with it.

We let people become desperate. We allow many of our people to live in poverty. Poverty creates desperation and desperate people can become violent. We allow our people to survive with inadequate housing, or none at all. We allow people to build mansions, and let other people sleep in doorways. We let one in every eight people try to get by without enough food. Often we restrict people’s freedom and let inequality reign, despite what we say in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Poverty, lack of housing, prejudice, hunger—all these things create desperation. Desperation creates crime and violence. 

We have then decided, as a nation, to make sure those desperate people have access to plenty of powerful weapons. A troubled young man can walk into a store on the day after he turns 18. He can buy two powerful rifles and plenty of ammunition. He can use them to take 21 lives, 19 of them beautiful little children. So, yes, I’m angry! And so very sad.

I am sad because it doesn’t have to be this way. I have been working with the Maine People’s Alliance for about two years and have learned that there are many solutions to the problems of the people, but that we have to twist arms and march and protest to get our leaders to take the actions we need. 

Not all of them, of course. There are many good legislators who are doing their best to improve the lives of Mainers. I do not want this letter to be seen as implying that the problem is poor people. It’s poverty itself that troubles us.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be always dealing with sadness and anger. We can deal with poverty. We can make sure people in Maine have enough food and adequate health care. And we certainly can, we certainly must, change our laws to make it harder for desperate people to get their hands on powerful weapons. 

Stephen Carnahan is a retired pastor who has been living in Maine for 24 years and has worked in congregations of the United Church of Christ for 35 years. Prior to that, Stephen worked as a high school teacher on Long Island, NY. He currently lives in Auburn on Taylor Pond and has two grown children, one of whom lives in Maine and the other travels all over. Stephen volunteers with the Maine People’s Alliance and can also be frequently found at Sea Dogs games in Portland.

Maine Beacon, July 5, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/

WFP warns of unprecedented levels of hunger and food insecurity in Haiti / by People’s Dispatch

The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that nearly half of Haiti’s population is at the risk of hunger and needs immediate food assistance. Photo: Georges Harry Rouzier/UNICEF

According to the latest Integrated Food Phase Classification (IPC) report, between March and June 2022, 4.5 million Haitians will be facing severe hunger.

In a country with one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world, data indicates that the situation in Haiti will only worsen. The World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations has warned that nearly half of the country’s population is at risk of hunger and in need of immediate food assistance.

The WFP, citing the latest Integrated Food Phase Classification (IPC) report, the global standard for measuring food insecurity, reported that between March and June 2022, 4.5 million Haitians (45% of the population) would be suffering from severe hunger. The WFP further reported that of this number, 3.18 million Haitians (32% of the population) would be in a situation classified as in the crisis phase, and 1.32 million Haitians (13%) would be in the emergency phase.

The WFP representative in Haiti, Pierre Honnorat, stated that the current situation is “the worst registered since 2018.” In 2018, half of Haiti’s population was undernourished and the country’s Global Hunger Index score rose to 35 from 28 in 2009, reaching the “alarming” threshold.

Honnorat also highlighted that the Caribbean country’s dependence on food imports places Haitians in an unfavorable position, due to the devaluation of Haitian currency against the US dollar. As Honnorat described, “70% of the goods in Haiti’s stores are imported, including basic products such as rice, 80% of which is imported.”

The WFP’s report also detailed how “one of the key drivers of food insecurity in Haiti is the poor performance of the agriculture sector and the country’s dependence on food imports, which makes the country vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets.” The WFP expressed concern about the effect of the Russia–Ukraine crisis on food security, which continues to negatively impact the purchasing power in highly import-dependent countries like Haiti.

Honnorat also said that the WFP fears the war in Ukraine would raise the price of food and therefore increase hunger in Haiti. He described how Haiti primarily imports wheat from Russia and Canada, adding how wheat flour is used to bake the bread which consumed by Haitians every day. “If the wheat flour [price] is going up, you will see a problem. And as I said, the price has already multiplied by five in two years. So, we can only expect that it will multiply again.”

Honnorat added that the situation of hunger would push people to resort to extreme measures, “fueling insecurity, migration and sexual exploitation.”

The WFP’s report added that persistent political instability, deepening economic crisis, soaring inflation, and recurrent natural disasters also limit access to affordable food for vulnerable populations. Over the past two decades, Haiti has been rocked by severe storms, floods, landslides, droughts, including the devastating earthquake in 2010 and the category 4 Hurricane Matthew in 2016. On the 2021 Climate Risk Index list, Haiti is on number three among the countries most affected by extreme weather events from 2000 to 2019.

Last August’s earthquake caused massive economic, human and infrastructural losses in southwestern Haiti, affecting nearly 1 million people. Northern Haiti is also reeling from the aftermath of heavy flooding in late January, which resulted in the displacement of nearly 2,500 families, forcing them to seek refuge in temporary shelters.

People’s Dispatch, March 29, 2022, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2022/03/29/wfp-warns-of-unprecedented-levels-of-hunger-and-food-insecurity-in-haiti/