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'Poverty Is Daily Disaster'

October 20, 1988

Ullman's concern for starving children is touching, but I find several problems with her approach.

First, her focus on children is typical of our society. But millions of adults are dying alongside the millions of children around the world. For some reason, children's lives are valued more than adults. Why does concern for human life and well-being end at puberty?

Second, Ullman's solution seems to be simply the signing of a Convention of Children's Human Rights. However, the problems of hunger can't be signed away. Food scarcity is not the result of lack of production capacity or even natural disaster. The problems are Third World production of export crops at the expense of food crops, and maldistribution of the adequate supply of food available worldwide. This is the result of political and economic decisions. Farmers in the United States dump food rather than accept lower prices or give the food away, while many countries grow coffee or cotton instead of corn and beans. Ullman fails to address the structural changes needed to solve these problems.

And, as usual, the target of this concern is the hunger found abroad in impoverished countries. Ullman ignores, however, the problems of hunger that exist in the developed world: Infants in black ghettos in Oakland suffer malnutrition at levels similar to those of the Third World, while thousands of homeless wander our streets, eating out of garbage cans. As a society we have refused to deal with these problems at home or abroad.

Concern for those less fortunate and a commitment to social change are admirable. But that concern and commitment must be accompanied by adequate analysis of the problems and a plan to change the existing power structures that perpetuate inequality.

JULIE CHARLIP

Los Angeles

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