“Hope For Charity” © Didik suhartono, 2010 entry, Picture This: We Can End Poverty
The United Nations Development Programme, along with Olympus and the Agence France-Presse Foundation, have launched the second annual Picture This photo contest in Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture This: We Can End Poverty seeks to show the inspirational work that is being done in many countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals agreed on by world leaders to halve extreme poverty by 2015. The first, second and third place winners in each of the two categories—professional photo and amateur photo—will win an Olympus E-P2. The first prize winners and the People’s Choice winner will be flown to New York for an awards ceremony. The first prize winner in the professional category will also be eligible for a fellowship through The AFP Foundation. For more information, visit the official contest page.
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“What do you think the effect that 2 million Afghans martyred, 70 percent of Afghanistan destroyed, and our economy eliminated has had on us? Half our people have been driven mad. A man who is 30 or 40 years old looks like he is 70. We always live in fear. We are not secure anywhere in Afghanistan.”
That is a quote from Azim Mohammad of Nagharhar, Afghanistan, cited in a report out this week from the aid agency Oxfam International and a group of Afghan organizations citing poverty –not the Taliban–as the real source of conflict. This as Afghan President Hamid Karzei is inaugurated.
One of the key reasons for poverty is the crackdown on opium fields in the past two years. AP reported in August that the country that has produced 93% of the world’s opium has been decimated by its own government’s destruction of family-owned fields, the fields that provided their only income. As distasteful as supporting a family on opium crops may be to the world, having the government eliminate 95 percent of the industry without providing alternatives is a recipe for disaster.
Why has Afghan done this? Because of international pressure to stem the flow of money to the Taliban. Yet AP says it hasn’t worked. In fact, 70 percent of Afghans surveyed see poverty and unemployment as the major cause of the conflict in their country. Ordinary Afghans blame government weakness and corruption as the second most important factor behind the fighting, with the Taliban coming third, followed by interference by neighboring countries.
The report, “The Cost of War,” paints a grim picture of a country shredded by three decades of war. The survey of 704 Afghans reveals:
- one in six Afghans are currently considering leaving Afghanistan;
- one in five Afghans have been tortured since the wars began in 1979;
- three quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes since then.
For more on how the Afghan people see their lives and future, read the whole story at http://bit.ly/29yqyd
To learn some sobering poverty stats, such as almost half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day, check out http://bit.ly/BxHj
Hunger and poverty aren’t limited to Afghanistan, of course. Another report on California and the U.S. is stunning: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA) reported that 12% of residents of California are “food insecure,” meaning that they lack consistent access to adequate amounts of nutritious food. In total, 49 million Americans, including nearly 17 million children, are food insecure. The 2008 report on Household Food Insecurity in the United States paints an alarming picture of the pervasiveness of hunger in our nation.
Food banks, such as the L.A. Regional Foodbank, have seen demand spike 34 percent in the last year. But that’s where you can help. If you have a little extra this holiday season, provide a good meal to someone else. Check out your area agencies and food banks, or donate online to sites such as TheHungerSite.com. Then your Thanksgiving dinner will be even more satisfying.
But what I want to know, is why we aren’t solving this problem?
To see an archive of historic images of hunger and poverty, visit The Borgen Project.
Native American Experience
Debbi K. Swanson Patrick
Time to showcase some stellar work. I’m taking a page from the great NY Times blog on photojournalism, Lens, to bring to your attention Aaron Huey. His work on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, site of the Wounded Knee massacre, documents the results of destruction of a culture.
Viewing these riveting photos of the Lakota that Huey has taken over the past five years will elicit any number of responses. Huey, 33, was stunned himself to see the poverty that overwhelmed him. He sent himself on assignment to document poverty in America, and couldn’t stop documenting this culture. Huey drives home the tragedy of seeing what was a mighty and proud nation reduced to trash heaps and desperation.
Huey is not one to choose the easy way. In 2002, he walked across the U.S. with his dog Cosmo and recently won an award from National Geographic Expedition Council Grant to walk across Siberia. He’s racking up a long list of awards while shooting for National Geographic, Smithsonian, the New York Times and several other high quality publications.
Always on the move, Aaron was heading to NYC when I caught up with him, so comments to come. Check out his work at Lens, and his website.