This is something I’ve seen before and something you may have seen too. Some of the costs shown are probably a bit out of date now but these images are still a powerful indictment of the inequality that exists in our world and how the country and community you happen to be born into will shape your life… and your death.
Each of the pictures below shows the amount of food eaten by each family in one week.
Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide Germany
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07
United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week $341.98
Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
I have never really understood why the celebration of the birth of Jesus – Christmas – has become, in the west at least and particularly, perhaps, in the UK and the USA, a time for over-indulgence in all things. People eat too much, drink too much and spend vast amounts of money on expensive presents for friends and family.
I am not a Christian but Jesus, if we are to believe the bible, valued poverty and humility. He threw the money lenders from the temple and said that the meek would inherit the earth. Yet, in celebration of his birth, the poor and weak of the world are mostly forgotten in an orgy of spending and over-consumption.
If you are one of those who will eat, drink and be merry this Christmas, stop for a while and consider this short passage which comes from a piece written by Nash Colundalur, amateur winner of the 2009 Guardian International Development Journalism Competition. It describes a scene in Turkana, Northern Kenya.
The vast expanse of the harsh landscape is broken by a gathering of a few hundred people, standing and crouched down in an unruly circle, all eyes focused on the centre. Emotions are running high among the ashen women, with some having slumped and collapsed to the ground. The men, desperately trying to take control of the situation, wave their long sticks furiously and yell agitatedly into the circle. Bellowing goats, sheep and cattle recklessly try to break into the ring.
They are all desperate for water. Abumon throws her arms up in the air, breaks out of the circle and in resignation crashes to the ground. She looks fretfully into the horizon. “I don’t care any more, I will die here.” She lifts a weak arm to point at the mountains. ‘They will come and take everything.” She beckons her small, severely malnourished child towards her. Suddenly there is great clamour from within the circle. A small container is making its way up, passed from hand to hand. A fresh flurry of yelling and stick-brandishing follows from the men, until the yellow plastic container finally arrives. The black sludgy water is first fed to the children, who lap it up quickly and cry for more.
An article in Saturday’s Guardian newspaper offers a sad reflection on 21st Century values.
Looking at what assets rose the most in value during the first nine years of the century (the ‘noughties’), they discovered that the big winners were fine wine and cigarettes.
A case of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982 which would have cost you £2,613 at the beginning of 2000 (already a disturbingly large amount of money for 12 bottles of wine), sold at the end of October this year for £25,500, an increase of 876%.
And shares in British American Tobacco, whose brands include Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall mall rose over the decade by 454% with Imperial Tobacco – makers of West, Gauloises and Rizla – not far behind with an increase of 400%.
Although this was the decade that saw smoking outlawed in public places in the UK such as cafes, bars and workplaces, these two made their vast profits partly by exploiting lucrative new markets such as Nigeria and Pakistan.
So it seems that producing wine for the obscenely rich or peddling a proven cancer-producing drug to poor people in developing countries is the best way to increase your wealth.
How very, very sad.