What would you do if you looked out your front window and saw the child next door – the child who was once a healthy, energetic 11-year-old – search the bushes for insects to feed his youngest sister?

Fatima, 13, was sold into marriage by her father for 20 goats as the food crisis hit. The marriage was, thankfully, annulled. Pic: Supplied by World Vision.

What would you do if you knew that once a fortnight the boy walked his sister almost 10km to a health centre for help? Or if you knew, as the children became thinner and thinner, that their desperate father was about to leave them to search for work in the city?

What if the father was considering selling a seven-year-old into marriage because he could no longer afford to feed her, and needed the payment to feed the rest of his family?

Would you ignore your neighbours, with their shocked eyes and protruding ribs, or would you walk next door and provide what help you could? 

Today some 18 million people face a food crisis in West Africa. Yet their plight is failing to capture the world’s attention and little assistance is flowing in.

The idea of children trying to survive on insects isn’t fiction, it’s the brutal reality of 11-year-old Salissou’s existence as he struggles to keep his sister Rashida, 2, alive in Niger.

And World Vision has also received reports of children as young as seven being sold into marriage. 

Of the eight countries hit, Niger is the worst affected by the West Africa food crisis; a crisis that has been mostly ignored. Maybe that’s understandable. After all, Europe is in financial crisis; the United States is just recovering from its own fiscal nightmare; recent years feel like they have been filled with tragedies and compassion fatigue is wearing us down; and we’re told every day debt is rising and stocks are falling.

Yet the scale of the tragedy in West Africa now is enormous, and as it worsens each day, we should be aware of the bitter reality that we could be preventing it.

Today across the region there are 18 million people – the equivalent of more than 80 per cent of the Australian population – battling the consequences of unrelenting drought, exacerbated by regional instability and subsequent migration and displacement; long-term underdevelopment; locust attacks; and significant regional mean temperature variations.

World Vision is trying to provide both immediate and long term relief to 1.1 million people across West Africa, but we struggle to do our work without precious donations. Right now, World Vision Australia is facing the slowest response to an appeal in many years. Only about $175,000 has been donated to our West Africa appeal, compared to the $6 million generously given by Australians last year when the Horn of Africa was ravaged by drought. 

The Australian government has already given $30 million in immediate aid to West Africa - and well over $100 million to East Africa, with another $30 million for long term projects - but the need is so great in the region that more is necessary. This is a chance for the government to show leadership and prove it sees Australia as a concerned global citizen.

The numbers of people facing a potential catastrophe are staggering, and the impact will hit the vulnerable the hardest – these include babies, the elderly, pregnant women and lactating mothers. Already one million children across the region are at risk of severe acute malnutrition, and another three million are at risk of moderate acute malnutrition.

When news of children suffering reaches us in our comfortable homes with our full cupboards, it is hard for us to hear it. We don’t want to look at our own children and imagine what it would be like to have to choose which one lives and which one is left by the side of the road, too weak to go on, as we make our way to an overcrowded refugee camp. We don’t want to think about not being able to provide even one meal a day for those we love.

The world was warned about the impending crisis in Niger and elsewhere in West Africa when crops failed last year, just after rallying to the Horn of Africa when famine was declared in some regions of Somalia. Then too, aid agencies tried to avert disaster early, but only got attention once children started dying and their haunting faces appeared in the media. The question asked about East Africa was why it took so long to act.

The time to intervene in West Africa is now, before we are forced to ask exactly the same questions all over again. 

To donate to the West Africa Food Crisis Appeal, visit World Vision or call 13 32 40.

Most commented


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    • Emma says:

      06:04am | 14/06/12

      No, I am sorry, that doesnt work for me.

      You cannot portray selling a young girl into marriage as sign of how desparate the situation is and that it wouldnt happen under normal circumstances. If we had a crisis like that in Australia, men wouldnt suddenly start selling and buying young girls. If you offered your daughter here, the other man would call child services on you and not lick his lips in anticipation. Obviously the interest and practice in having a 7-year-old bride is existing and has existed before.

    • Chris says:

      07:45am | 14/06/12

      I agreed with you on first reading.

      I think, however, the point has become that the girls are being married earlier than they otherwise would (7 is young even by many african standards) and it is not the choice of the father to do it, so much as he is driven to that as his only option to look after the rest of his family.

      That said - yes arranged marriages will still happen, and the girls will still be young - but they may well be in other circumstances.

      Also - I think you should be wary before judging the men who marry these young girls.  You automatically assume they are abusers, but that is not necessarily the case. Marriage and sex are thought of very differently in many African cultures, so it’s important not to look at those kinds of arrangements through our own lense (yes I too find it pretty awful - I’m just saying that we shouldn’t automatically assume things about the new “husband”).


    • Suzanne says:

      08:34am | 14/06/12

      If I was in that situation, I would rather sell myself to feed my childrenthan hand one of them over to the type of person who’s willing to buy a child for ‘marriage’.

    • Emma says:

      08:47am | 14/06/12


      Granted - it can be difficult to understand other people’s customs. I am sure not everyone marrying a young girl (out of cultural differences) is a monster. But when I think of my 9 year old niece being sold to some old guy, then things are revolting in me. She is a child, not a woman ready for marriage.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      08:57am | 14/06/12

      wrong, Emma. I bumped into a family in Blacktown who were coming out of Centrelink, mum and dad just lighting their fags. Dad flagged me down and asked if I was interested in his dull-eyed but pretty daughter for a six-pack. Of course I said no, but I’m one of the worlds gentlemen; who knows how another Blacktown bloke would have taken it. Hell is round the corner, we just don’t know it yet…

    • MarkS says:

      09:33am | 14/06/12

      I agree, polygamy is common in Africa. Basically well off men can afford to have & do have more than one wife. The same thing happens in our societies; very rich men have younger permanent mistresses & second families. A fact well known to their first socialite wives.

      So it could well be the case that the young girl will be cared for as a child by the rich man’s wife or wives until she reaches puberty, at which point she will then become one of the rich man’s wives in fact as well as name.

    • void says:

      09:41am | 14/06/12

      Scotchfinger, if that was the case and you thought he was serious, then I think the onus was on you to ask if he was dead-serious and then, if so, take a happy snap of the guy and report him to child services.  You probably could have popped into the Centrelink right there and let them know.

    • Kika says:

      09:58am | 14/06/12

      @Emma - Wasn’t too long ago women weren’t highly valued in the west either. It’s only been since the 20th century women had some equal stance with men. You need some perspective here. When people are living in the middle ages in 2012 you can’t expect them to have the same view on the world as you do.

      We have extended childhoods too. These days ‘adults’ are considered children until they are 21! My Nana was married and had her first child @ 19. These days she would be looked down at for being a teenage Mum. Back then - completely normal. It’s all relative and cirumstantial.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      10:05am | 14/06/12

      @void, everyone is entitled to a beer, who am I to judge?? Plus I vote for coalition, small ‘g’ government *wink* and have no patience for taxpayer-funded nanny state programs. Let Father of the Year work it out for himself.

    • Chris says:

      12:01pm | 14/06/12

      Never would have happened - the line Scotch would have had to wait in probably meant the kid would be over 18 by the time he was able to report it.


    • Bruno says:

      12:45pm | 14/06/12

      really, if a crisis like that happened here there would be child services. Would they be as effective as they are now?

    • ronny jonny says:

      04:28pm | 14/06/12

      I agree, you can take the cultural arguments and the possiblity that these men are desperate and shove them. Wrong is wrong. I work with a chap who is currently searching for a new wife, his third. The first has gotten a bit old and ugly, the second has managed to produce only daughters. He told me he is looking for a nice 10 to 12 year old, I was shocked and asked why so young? His reply was that she would be nice and “tight”. Disgusting. Don’t get all misty eyed about these peoples practices, they are just as gross and piggish as can be.

    • andye says:

      01:06am | 15/06/12

      @Emma - I think its very easy in our comfortable lives to sit and say what we wouldn’t do - when we haven’t been tested. I doubt you have faced starvation with no safety net to catch you.

    • James Ricketson says:

      06:45am | 14/06/12

      The very real survival problems confronting others in the world, in this case Africa, make our own problems in Australia seem insignificant. Indeed, if you have recently returned from a poor third world country where children forage for insects or eat the corpse of a dead dog found at the side of the road it is hard to take too seriously a great deal of what Australians consider to be evidence of them ‘doing it hard.’ Part of World Vision’s problem in raising money and the problem that other similar organizations confront, is the question: “How much of each dollar I give actually winds up in the hands of someone who needs it?” In the suburb in which I live there is never a week that goes by in which there is not a charity spruiking for funds in the street. Often they are professional raisers of money for charity and know little about the charity itself and rarely can they answer the vital question: “How much of what I might donate will be consumed by the charity itself in overhead expenses, publicity, marketing etc.?”  I am sure that I am not alone in wanting to get proper answers to such questions. Please, Tim let us know before we put our hands in our pockets.

    • real says:

      08:16am | 14/06/12

      “How much of what I might donate will be consumed by the charity itself in overhead expenses, publicity, marketing etc.?”

      Would you believe them anyway?

    • Matt says:

      09:41am | 14/06/12

      Aren’t charities required to keep public records of their finances? Yes, they should be able to give you a ballpark figure of how much donation goes where, but you could also inspect their finances yourself and see exactly where the money goes.

    • Bertrand says:

      06:50am | 14/06/12

      Why do I have the feeling that most of the comments on this thread will be along the lines of ‘tough luck but not our concern’.

      How anyone can turn a blind eye to severe suffering on an unimaginable scale is beyond me. I’m not suggesting we blindly give aid money for all eternity, but I do think in crisis situations emergency food aid, etc is neccessary.

      Long term aid projects do need to focus on family planning and reducing population size; there does need to be long term intervention in terms of the type of governance in these areas, because ultimately Africa will need to learn to help itself. But that still doesn’t suggest that immediate action in certain situations isn’t necessary.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:20pm | 14/06/12

      The problem being, and we’ve discussed this before, is that you never know when to stop.

      There is always another Tim Costello pointing at another Great Humanitarian Disaster In The Making, and we are always being asked to foot the bill for it.

      Like I said to you in another thread: the aid industry has had over 40 years to fix up Africa, including just about every fool who ever picked up a guitar supporting it and bringing publicity to the issue.  The record is clear that Africa economically is worse off now than when they started.

      Name a date.  How long do you have to keep supporting a charity case?

    • acotrel says:

      06:59am | 14/06/12

      Perhaps shipments of Australian food would be better than money for the West Africans ? Our government could use Australian ships loaded by Australian workers to load Australian produce paid for by Australian money, and no miiddleman could get his hands into the cookie jar.

    • Ray says:

      08:14am | 14/06/12

      Which ‘Australian ships’ would these be?

    • acotrel says:

      09:04am | 14/06/12

      The ones we are going to make in Australia to replace the ones the Liberal Party sold off.

    • acotrel says:

      09:44am | 14/06/12

      This forum is not as much fun as fishing in a river.  You blokes are too predictable !

    • Leo says:

      10:17am | 14/06/12

      Australia is already supplying direct food aid as part of an annual $300 million in aid to Africa. But distribution is a big challenge that is not easily solved without the ngo’s, we also supply several hundred agricultural researchers to an international team looking to increase future food yields.

      I have not seen anything in the news about Labor plans to build ships and Howard did not sell any off. I don’t recall the Australian government ever being a significant owner or maker of ships, particularly freighters. Most shipyards are in Asia, even the UK and America don’t make many these days.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      10:32am | 14/06/12

      I would be happy to send cases of Fosters beer, plus all our chiko rolls and Mrs Macs pies, to our struggling african friends. I would miss these ‘foods’ dearly, but sacrifice is worth it. Please don’t give me another award, I can’t stand it.

    • MarkS says:

      10:53am | 14/06/12

      No not the chiko rolls. They can have the Fosters & Pies, but I like chiko rolls, in moderation. About one per year is my limit.

    • Noms says:

      11:00am | 14/06/12

      @Scotchfingerer,It could misinterpreted as a war crime sending Chiko Rolls

    • Justme says:

      07:00am | 14/06/12

      What is the current population of these areas compared to , say, 20 years ago? I do and will again donate. But I have to ask whether we are saving people who then go on to further increase the population. Their land is not sustaining them now. How will an increased population fare any better?

      I truly do not have the facts so please someone in the know advise me without flaming me or ridiculing me. Is this a one-off crisis in which case, pour in the help and they will be back on their feet in a few years? Or is this an ongoing crisis and no matter how much money, food, assistance is given things will never improve, we will just have more people needing our help?

    • James Ricketson says:

      09:06am | 14/06/12

      Justme, your concerned are justified. I have had a good deal to do with one country into which billions of dollars of aid money have been poured over the past 16 years that I have been a regular visitor. Not only have the living conditions for the bulk of the population not improved over this time, for many they have got worse because now, with the hunger for good arable land growing and with a corrupt government (made fat on the above-mentioned billions of dollars) subsistence farmers are having their land stolen from them. And in the cities the poor have their houses stolen from them with such regularity that barely a week goes by without yet another community being destroyed by bulldozers. And yet this country has around 2000 working in it to alleviate poverty, encourage good governance and so on. There are lots of questions that need to be asked but which rarely are. It does not help that our own Department of Foreign Affairs (a generous contributor to the coffers of this country) is so secretive and will not allow the media to scrutinize how the money is spent.

    • fml says:

      12:35pm | 14/06/12

      “Their land is not sustaining them now.”

      The land isn’t the problem, It’s inefficient harvesting techniques and poor distribution. There are charities aiming at tackling these issues, maybe donate to one of them?

    • fml says:

      01:03pm | 14/06/12

      here is one


      “Farm Africa provides the training and support that poor rural communities need to identify and implement appropriate solutions to many of the key problems they face.  Families are directly supported to help work themselves out of poverty through improved ways to manage their crops, livestock, forests and access to water.”

    • Justme says:

      02:22pm | 14/06/12

      Thanks fml. I would definitely be more comfortable with this type of donation. Help them to help themselves etc.

    • Movin On says:

      05:23pm | 14/06/12

      Justme - the reason that these people keep having children is simple - to put it mildly, they are their wealth. If they have several children that live, then they have several children that can contribute to the earnings of and for the family, making it wealthy.

    • Dr B S Goh says:

      07:28am | 14/06/12

      The No global problem is the continued global population growth. We need to understand this as the fountain of ,many of the tragic suffering this article describes.

      India last April reported in its census that it has 1.2 billion people with 180,000,000 added in the last TEN years. Similar rates of growth in many Asian countries and in Africa. Even China is in a touch a go status in the looming global food crisis. Its one child policy is not rigorously implemented as Minorities are not subjected to it and the rich are breaking it by paying fines or having babies in HK. China reported in April 2011 that it has 1.34 billion and 74m added to its population in the last ten years.

      In my view to reduce sufferings 90% of Australia’s foreign aid should be used to promote birth control and a one child policy in developing countries. World Vision and other NGO claiming to help poor and undernourished should devote 30% of their budgets to promote birth control.

      Finally the continued population growth in Asia represents to greatest threat to the survival of Australia. When the critical global food crisis breaks out Australia will be swamped by a tsunami of millions of boatpeople. The ALP and Greens have helped reinforced the universal view in Asia that Australia welcomes boatpeople.

    • Stephen says:

      01:51pm | 14/06/12

      Their cultures require them to have 10 kids just to survive in those 3rd world countries.  6 to go out and work the fields, 1 to stay home cook/clean, 3 girls they sell off.  So when they grow old they’ll have 7 kids to take care of them in their old age.  Its their pension plan and its how it works in many 3rd world countries without a big family your screwed.  Of course when draught comes or the economy goes south your all screwed and natural selection does it job.

    • Rebecca says:

      04:32pm | 14/06/12

      @ Stephen - by what unbelievable right does anyone have that they can have any number of children for their own purposes?

      Does a person have automatic ‘ownership’ of a child?  Does a child not have rights of their own - including getting the hell out of dodge?

      Regardless of the dynamics of large families - a parent does not own their children.  All bets are off - you created that life, yes - but you don’t own it.  It is not in the child’s interest to be born - it is in the parents. 

      Children are not a means to an end, and should not be used in such a way.  The children involved have their own rights - and not having to grow up in that environment (not being born into that environment) should be high on that list.

    • Evalee says:

      05:31pm | 14/06/12

      Dear Rebecca,

      It is not only in African nations that parents claim ownership of the child.  I was told by my mum when I turned 13 that she had waited for me to be that age so I could take over looking after my brothers and she could have her life back.  I was not allowed to attend extra-curricular activities after school or have any other commitments besides home life and going to school.  I was a slave.  We were isolated and terrorised.  It would be nice if everyone thought like you but the fact is, not everyone does.

    • Good Grief says:

      06:35pm | 14/06/12


      What Stephen says is true for many third world countries, where the very idea of survival is still on the top of many people’s minds. It’s definitely not pretty, but so was much of human history. Turn the clock back about a century to Industrial England and we will have a similar situation; people had many children under the knowledge that mortality rates were high and each child was only able to contribute so much to their parents (who have no means financial security) at old age.

      The whole idea of children having rights is a relatively new idea given birth by wealthy nations that can afford (and willing) to take care of its citizens (at old age especially).

      Fact: most people start to care, after affording a means to live

    • Dr B S Goh says:

      07:31am | 14/06/12

      The No 1 global problem is the continued global population growth. We need to understand this as the fountain of ,many of the tragic suffering this article describes.

      India last April reported in its census that it has 1.2 billion people with 180,000,000 added in the last TEN years. Similar rates of growth in many Asian countries and in Africa. Even China is in a touch a go status in the looming global food crisis. Its one child policy is not rigorously implemented as Minorities are not subjected to it and the rich are breaking it by paying fines or having babies in HK. China reported in April 2011 that it has 1.34 billion and 74m added to its population in the last ten years.

      In my view to reduce sufferings 90% of Australia’s foreign aid should be used to promote birth control and a one child policy in developing countries. World Vision and other NGO claiming to help poor and undernourished should devote 30% of their budgets to promote birth control.

      Finally the continued population growth in Asia represents to greatest threat to the survival of Australia. When the critical global food crisis breaks out Australia will be swamped by a tsunami of millions of boatpeople. The ALP and Greens have helped reinforced the universal view in Asia that Australia welcomes boatpeople.

    • Tony of Poorakistan says:

      09:29am | 14/06/12

      ‘‘In my view to reduce sufferings 90% of Australia’s foreign aid should be used to promote birth control and a one child policy in developing countries.’‘

      Completely correct and well put.

    • Onlooker says:

      09:50am | 14/06/12

      That’s it Dr B S, until we teach these poor folk how to control birth rate no sense giving any assistance as we just provide more opportunity to increase the population, high infant mortality also persuades these poor folk to have more kids to ensure they are looked after in their old age, just giving food worsens the situation.

    • Jon says:

      10:21am | 14/06/12

      Thank you, Dr B S Goh, perfectly stated! But you make too much sense, so many won’t listen.

    • Sloan says:

      10:26am | 14/06/12

      Next thing we will be hearing a call for eugenics as well.

      It is incredibly racist Dr Goh to call for birth control for these nations whilst at the same time we are paying our citizens to have children.

      By what right do Australians think they own their country? That is a tired idea linked to Nationalism and all that it entails. We should be opening our borders to the world and saying, “Come to us and share in all we have as is your right as a citizen of the world!”

      After all, aren’t all Australians just boat people or the descendent of boat people.

      Is it such a bad thing Dr Goh if Australia is “swamped” by a tsunami of immigrants? Immigrants built this country and made it what it is today. What difference would another 20 or 30 million make.

    • fml says:

      12:00pm | 14/06/12

      Did you repeat an entire post just to add the number “1”?

      What a waste of resources…

    • Expat Ozzie says:

      12:00pm | 14/06/12

      Dr B S Goh: Although population growth is a rather large problem the only real solution to the birth rate is bringing country’s into a more advanced state. It is very easy to not the decline in birth rates in advanced weston countries. It seems fair that the real solution is education as this brings about developmental change in society. Granted birth control is a measure but is not the magic pill.

    • fml says:

      12:18pm | 14/06/12

      Heard it all before,

      They must reduce their population so we can continue living on in gluttony and wasting resources. Slice of manifest destiny pie, anyone?

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      12:27pm | 14/06/12

      @ Expat Ozzie. Thanks for your comments. I truly wish your solution of increased education and wealth can work on a global scale in the timescale needed to void the looming global food crisis, see D J Clark’s video at:  http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/video/2011-06/15/content_12702559.htm.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:54pm | 14/06/12

      Once again, the only sensible solution to this sorry, ongoing mess is met by the PC brigade with cries of ‘racism’. No wonder shit is just getting worse.

    • fml says:

      02:33pm | 14/06/12

      How exactly is it affecting you admiral??

      It isn’t. So what does reducing the population in Africa achieve other than meaning there are more resources for you to consume?

      If you are not interested in resources then the only solution is helping the Africans develop better agricultural techniques.

      Asking for africans to be sterilised instead of helping improving their farming techniques is well… the word we dare not say.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      03:16pm | 14/06/12

      How does a lower population in Africa mean I get to consume more? I’m intelligent enough to consume what I need to sustain myself, no more and no less, plus I have the ability to make an informed decision on whether or not to have children based on my economic situation and ability to feed said children. If it isn’t affecting any of us, then are we just discussing it so we can give ourselves a nice warm feeling without actually having done anything? You keep going on about teaching them better agricultural techniques, hasn’t this already been tried in the however many years we’ve been going on about a problem that we’re not actually doing anything about? Everything we’ve tried so far clearly hasn’t worked, and unlike the Chinese, it seems that Africa is incapable of maintaining a high population without constantly asking for help. The world isn’t all Unicorns shitting rainbows fml, and sometimes harsh situations need definite solutions that may be frowned upon by the hippies of the world because what we’ve tried so far has had a negative result, if any. Man, I could change the world if I gave a shit.

    • Sinbad says:

      03:29pm | 14/06/12

      @ fml . Do you have any hands on experiences in farming in Africa?

      My old friend spent 5 years setting up a small agriculture center and taught Africans to MANAGE and farm.  One year after he left the whole place disintegrated.

      I myself had experiences in arid region farming for a few years in USA and Asia.

      You and @ Sloan needs to get your hands dirtied and try to help Africans and Asians in practical farming not just dream about it and wish all will be well

    • Expat Ozzie says:

      03:39pm | 14/06/12

      Dr B S Goh:  “I truly wish your solution of increased education and wealth can work on a global scale in the timescale needed to void the looming global food crisis”

      So do I but neither will. Education is a long term solution but I fear there really is no true solution that will be found due to politics.

    • Tavare says:

      07:35am | 14/06/12

      Just ignore the real issue that has been going for decades - countries overpopulating when they cannot sustain the population they have, yet alone the population that is in the pipeline. China recognised the problem and addressed it. I think that Australian aid in the 1970s focussed more on population control measures (clinics spreading the word of contraception), but today we just pump in more money, which fuels more population (and corruption), which then leads to yet another African country being in the same situation. Australia should be leading the way in connecting aid to population control. We also need to provide education to girls so that they don’t start having children at 13 or 14, and of course we should not support any country that allows such anti-women barbaric feudal practices. It’s called tough love, otherwise people like Tim Costello will write the same piece every few months for the forseeable future, with nothing actually achieved.

    • fml says:

      01:01pm | 14/06/12

      Over population isn’t the issue, its efficient farming practices and distribution techniques.

      What about supporting these guys.


      They are teaching african farmers sustainable farming techniques.

    • bananabender56 says:

      07:47am | 14/06/12

      I would like to know what the wealthier African nations are doing to help themselves. While you have african leaders ripping off billions out of their countries coffers, and yes, some of this is aid money, I won’t contribute a cent.

    • Kika says:

      10:01am | 14/06/12

      Exactly. Nigeria is a western African nation. What are they doing to help their neighbours out?

      Tribal and cultural affinities speak very loudly in Africa more so than the West seems to realise.

    • Caedrel says:

      03:20pm | 15/06/12

      It would be better if you just posted your last sentence, because that’s what you’ll do even if the African leaders do clean up their act.

      I wish people would stop giving bogus justifications and just own up to not caring enough to discomfort themselves.


      07:54am | 14/06/12

      Hi Tim,

      Good article but such a bad excuse for so called men and fathers who are freely trading in their daughters for twenty goats! I can surely understand being poor, uneducated and desperate!  However, I do seem to have a problem with such poor excuses for a father trading in their children so easily, no matter what the real reasons might be in the first place!

      I am just curious to know just how much their sons would be worth?  And is that really any different to young girls being sold into prostitution by their family members in places such as Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and other Asian countries?  I could not imagine how any father or mother would behave in this undignified way!  May be the fortunate sons are simply spared from this degrading and humiliating practice of being sold just like cattle, no offence intended. 

      I truly don’t want to hear any more sad and poor excuses from such people, no matter what their religious or cultural backgrounds may be!  How about coming up with some good examples of dignity, compassion and simple human kindness for these children?  Instead of just giving a two minutes of much needed publicity for a great cause, lets all just show the poor nations that we actually care in a meaningful way!  Kind regards to your editors.

    • James Ricketson says:

      10:18am | 14/06/12

      Neslihan, imagine this: You are very poor in a third world country where there is no safety net to help you feed your children. You live in a village some distance from a major town. You arte not educated, do not have access to the internet and you do not know how you will feed your children next week, next month. Your children’s hair has turned red as a result of malnutrition. A man or woman in you village (or a visitor to your village) offers your 14 year old daughter a job in a restaurant in the country’s capital/S/he will give you money upfront - to be deducted from the wages your daughter will receive. This seems like an ideal solution to your immediate problem - which is to feed your other hungry children. This scenario is all too common so please don’t immediately judge poor illiterate parents too harshly before you now the facts. Sometimes these same parents might know that the job in a restaurant is really a job in a brothel but, if you want to feed your children and no other source of income is available to you, what would you do?


      09:20pm | 14/06/12

      Hi James Ricketson,

      I appreciate well thought out and intelligent reply!  I truly understand where you are coming from and the true desperation in certain parts of the world.  However, my question to you today is"how do we all put a stop to the sheer misery, draught, hunger and desperation, so that it does not become a way of life for human survival.

      At least you seem to be doing your part by showing that you actually care, in a very good way.  But as the Western society on this planet we all call home, we just need to do more to end this ultimate human suffering at its worst, by acting and thinking globally!  Kind regards.

    • Mark says:

      07:54am | 14/06/12

      There is no question in my mind, we as a wealthy country should do more than our bit to help these countries and these very sad situations. 

      There is more than some doubt in my mind that the money will not end up where it should. Whether it be too many admin costs associated with World Vision, some disclosed, some not. Admin costs at the other end. Corruption by the organization supposedly helping the poor who world vision provides the funds too. Corruption within West Africa, dare I say, is not uncommon.  If 10 cents in every dollar donated got to the place it should, I would be surprised.

       You would be amazed the layers of beurocracy when people call you up for donations…everyone is taking their cut before it gets to the lost dogs home/kids with cancer…

    • Tel says:

      08:08am | 14/06/12

      There have been times when I’ve wished I could swap my daughters for a few goats.

    • fml says:

      12:05pm | 14/06/12

      I have a painting of a goat?

    • Robin says:

      12:46pm | 14/06/12

      My daughter is going out with a goat (or, some dropkick with a goatee)

    • Jimmie Two Times says:

      08:20am | 14/06/12

      How do you propose to supply birth control to these countries?
      Are you going to fly KC130’s over them and drop condoms?

      How do you propose to supply birth control to these countries?
      Are you going to fly KC130’s over them and drop condoms?

    • Bob Stewart, the Elder says:

      08:24am | 14/06/12

      Sorry Tim, that will not work so long as most of the money will finish up in Swiss banks because the feel good part of the intent and the gift goes no further than a token gesture at the receiving end. Then hoarded to be sold later by the warlords. My 2 years in Libya 73-74 and my eldest son 7 years in the Sudan provides the source to my frequent testimonies on the issue.

      Take a pickup ride from Benghazi through the Horn and down to Khartoum through the irrigation area at Kufra Tim as I did,and observe the influence of tribal leaders who, for eons past, have amassed personal wealth and the more powerful influence of life and death far beyond that necessary in our society to maintain their armed entourage and the extended tribe in serfdom.

      It has been my personal observation that to be effective, any material help will need an escort of armed troops all the way to the cooking pots otherwise, as you well know Tim, the situation you describe has remained the problem for Africa for years past and is not likely to change unless volunteers can live and work among the locals to show them how.

      In my own case, careful to watch my back and to give credit for my effort to the tribal leader at every opportunity. The reason must be obvious.

    • Sloan says:

      08:25am | 14/06/12

      The people of Niger and other African countries need to increase their population to bring about economic growth. Constant growth is the only way forward for the world. Australian politicians know this and that is why we have such high immigration rates and high birth rates. Come to Australia and be paid to have a child.

      Clearly there is a link between ever larger population numbers and economic success. Isn’t there?

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      09:10am | 14/06/12

      @Sloan Africa has never had any problems with population growth, your statement is ...........awe inspiring in its ignorance. When a country can’t feed the people it has how do expect to increase their population and not only feed them but educate them as well so they actually have a future

    • Sloan says:

      10:05am | 14/06/12

      Greg, as the population increases it will bring more opportunities to the people. That is why Australia must quickly increase its population to 3rd world levels also. The sooner we have 100 million here in Australia the sooner we can start enjoying all the benefits that a larger population brings to its citizens.

      As any politician in Australia will tell you, as population increases it becomes easier to add further infrastructure. With another 50 million people Niger could easily build a fast train from Niamey in Niger to Chad and Sudan all the way to the Red Sea. Mabe they could build a desal plant and turn their deserts into farmland. Without ever more people they wont have the critical mass of people to develop further and could remain stuck with a standard of living like the Swiss who stubbornly reject immigration and exponential growth, fools and racists that they are..

      Science is surely only a step away from finding a way to feed all these people. Just look at Australia Greg. We are able to sell all our arable farm land to the Chinese and the Middle East because Aussie politicians know that arable land will not be needed in the future.

      We can and indeed should, quickly populate Australia and enjoy all the benefits of that growth much like our neighbours in SE Asia enjoy.

      I for one find cities such as Geneva to be a bore. Tired old places with monocultures thinking only of themselves and their citizens. We in Australia at least have it right! Seeking to emulate our fast growing Asian neighbours so all Australians can enjoy a higher standard of living through population growth.

    • Emma says:

      10:39am | 14/06/12

      100 million people in Australia? I came here to flee from the 85 million in Germany!

    • Sloan says:

      11:04am | 14/06/12

      Emma, you didn’t enjoy all the benefits of sharing your living space with 85 million people? How strange.

      Australia is predicted to hit 44 million people at past averaged rates of growth in the next 35 years, possibly sooner.

      There is some discussion that total immigrant numbers into Australia over the coming decades will exceed 2.2% of total population per year. That is around an extra 500,000 people per year that will need to be housed and fed etc. Add to that natural births increasing the number further and it is quite possible Australia will have 50 million by 2050.

      If you fled Germany to escape high population numbers why should the people of Niger or Somalia not do the same?

    • Goldenfaber says:

      11:28am | 14/06/12

      Sloan You are an ignorant fool. There is only one country in Europe with more that ten percent of the population being immigrants and that is Switzerland. In fact over twenty percent of their population is made up of immigrants…

    • Expat Ozzie says:

      12:33pm | 14/06/12

      Sloan: “Clearly there is a link between ever larger population numbers and economic success. Isn’t there?”

      Really??? Then why aren’t India and China the most advanced countries in the world.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      02:02pm | 14/06/12

      I’m still waiting to hear what these ‘benefits’ are. Please enlighten us, keeping in mind that the Earths resources are finite.

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      04:02pm | 14/06/12

      Sloan your talking about a 3rd world country here if they had the money for infrastructure they would be able to feed their own people. They don’t have infrastructure for the people they have have you ever been to a thrid world country?

    • ibast says:

      05:52pm | 14/06/12

      Sloan, You’ve only got half an economic theory there.  Yes population growth is important to economic in countries where there is sparse population (like Australia) and first world economies.

      Having said that uncontrolled population growth in 3rd world economies is devastating and is contributes to the cycle of ecnomic downturn.  This is why China brought in the 1 child policy.  The knew that whilst ever their population was out of control they would never be a first world economy.  Now look at them.

      India is having this debate at the moment.

      It is well documented that much of Africa’s woes stem from uncontrolled population growth.  This is another reason why it is contradictory for Christian organisations to be providing aid to these countries.

    • Mark says:

      09:00am | 14/06/12

      Tim, if World Vision could somehow prove behond doubt that the money being donated was ending up where it should, this would go a long way towards convincing people to put their hands in their pockets. It would also be a stronger argument than giving us sad situations as you have above. People are very cynical about donating to countries where corruption is out of control.

    • Arthur says:

      09:08am | 14/06/12

      You’re a very good man Tim Costello.

      I believe you’re tackling the wrong problem The problem that needs fixing is there are too many people.

      Failing that, you may as well do nothing. In fact, failing to fix the population problem, sadly you’re making it all worse.

    • ibast says:

      09:23am | 14/06/12

      So if I give a dollar to World Vision, how much of it actually makes it through?

    • Arthur says:

      10:17am | 14/06/12

      Even if your dollar makes it ibast. Your dollar will sadly just make more people and the problem even bigger.

    • fml says:

      12:22pm | 14/06/12

      Then don’t give a dollar, let someone else give a dollar, you can only whinge if you give the dollar, not if you don’t.

      You can’t have your dollar and whinge too.

    • ibast says:

      03:53pm | 14/06/12

      But I am free to point out why I don’t give a dollar.  Maybe if enough people do that, these religious based charities might start being a bit more scrupulous with money they raise and thus raise more money.

    • Riggerman says:

      09:54am | 14/06/12

      The money spent on the recent pomp and ceremony of the Queens diamond jubilee would have bought a lot of rice .How about the Vatican bank spending some of its ill gotten gains or mabey greedy Gina or cashed up Clive could show some humanity

    • Monty says:

      09:57am | 14/06/12

      It’s going to be depressing to read how many commentators justify and rationalise not giving a stuff about Africa.

    • Matt says:

      10:04am | 14/06/12

      I agree with the multitude of other people.

      Stop feeding the fire of population growth.
      Fix the corruption.

      Once those are done, the problem with go away on it’s own. Call it sympathy fatigue or whatever you like… people are sick of donating money to fix the problem, only to have the same problem (worse) a couple of years later.

    • Kika says:

      10:11am | 14/06/12

      Tim - I love World Vision and I sponsor a little girl through WV and have been for the past 4 years. I’ve seen her grow from a little girl into a young woman and have been able to help her and her community which doesn’t mean to me but a lot for her and her family.


      Guilt tripping people into giving more when we’re all focused on our first world problems doesn’t work. We’ve had this for years. Donate for this. Think about the Children. $1.00 a day will feed this child. We’ve heard this all for years yet nothing changes.

      It’s 2012. It’s not exactly 1901. The West don’t need to save the starving black children anymore. There are PLENTY of wealthy Africans and African nations who can stand up and take care of their own too. What is WV doing to promote the plight of fellow Africans WITHIN Africa? What is South Africa doing in helping their Saharan cousins out? I want to know this because given we’re all scraping our pennies together to get by as it is…and our empathy levels lower than they have ever been for fellow Aussies let alone foreigners…

    • Sloan says:

      10:17am | 14/06/12

      To all those saying birth control is the way forward for these nations, by what right do you deny these people the god given right to have children?

      Australia should immediately open its borders and its hearts to these people. If Australia took just 25 million of the African continents suffering people we could more than double our population overnight. That would still leave a little under a billion people in all the African nations to be helped but it would be a start.

      Why are we so selfish here? Australia could easily accommodate 50 million people. With all those extra people to help us build our nation imagine how cosmopolitan it would be in our capital cities.

      If they came here to live we could even give them, lets say $5000 to have a child to encourage them to further populate our vastly underpopulated country. We could call it a baby bonus.

    • Dazeddazza says:

      12:11pm | 14/06/12

      What a great idea, lets get them here as quickly as possible, just in time for the next election when they can vote Labor!!!!

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      02:18pm | 14/06/12

      “To all those saying birth control is the way forward for these nations, by what right do you deny these people the god given right to have children?”

      Having children is a decision. If someone decides to have children when they know full well that there is not enough food to feed even themselves, who’s fault then is it that said child also grows up starving? Your naive rants are making me really glad that your opinion is in the minority.

      By what right would you force the same conditions on Australia as those seen in Africa?

    • miloinacup says:

      10:22am | 14/06/12

      The problem when these issues come up is that too many people seem to forget that underdeveloped countries are just that - underdeveloped. In infrastructure, in education and in economic development. It’s easy enough for people to say “well, they need to stop having kids!” or “they need to get themselves out of such dire situations” when you come from a rich nation like Australia where birth control (condoms, pills and in in some desperate situations, abortions) are readily available and realitively cheap, and food is in abundance.

      Africa doesn’t have the privilage of being a thriving continent. Of the ten countries with the lowest recorded adult literacy rates, 9 are in Africa. When you aren’t educated, how are you expected to make informed decisions to better your life? Birth control is unheard of in some areas. Literally - some women didn’t even realise such a thing existed. In some hospitals in some countries (Congo for example) doctors won’t even let women HAVE birth control unless they bring their husbands in to prove that they have ‘accepted’ that their wives wish to use it.

      So much money has been given to aid organisations over the last few decades, and yet situations don’t seem to be improving as much as they should be. Maybe organisations should start changing their tactics about how they distribute donations, since obviously whatever they are doing isn’t working as well as it should.

    • Sloan says:

      10:50am | 14/06/12

      Well at least they no longer have their old colonial masters like the English and the French forcibly imposing their Western European values on them. Now they can build their own rich and diverse cultures based on their philosophies and ideals.

      African leaders decided that the education systems, judiciary and police established in many colonial possessions by the English were not compatible with their values and quite correctly rejected them to replace them with systems of their own making. That those systems may not be working as well as they could currently is certainly unfortunate but at least the people of many of these nations are now free of western oppression.

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      04:07pm | 14/06/12

      also free of food, free of medicine, doctors and public security. bet their loving their freedom Sloan

    • Ally says:

      10:24am | 14/06/12

      Situations like this are incredibly distressing. It makes you wonder how the rulers of some African countries can sit on their ill-gotten gains and allow their people to suffer and starve.

      Clearly international aid is a bandaid solution that temporarily feeds some people only for them to starve again the next time there’s a drought. The international community needs to look at sustainable ways of supporting development in these countries.

      A few years ago I read a really interesting book on the issue of aid in Africa called Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo. It’s well worth checking out.

    • Leo says:

      10:44am | 14/06/12

      Its clear that the worlds attempts to fix the problems in Africa have failed. The constant drip feed of aid is nothing more than putting a band aid on an axe wound. There needs to be a complete re-think and a new approach. All of Africa is a political shambles with despots and tyrants running successive corrupt regimes. Perhaps a more direct approach from the UN to failed nations whereby the UN installs their own Administrators to replace the local government, in the same way that Administrators are installed in failed companies. It might seem extreme and invasive but Africa has been a mess for generations and all the Aid dollars have achieved nothing.

    • Empowerment says:

      10:59am | 14/06/12

      I admire your philanthropy Tim and your best intentions, even though I feel it’s almost in vain.

      As long as I can remember, (and I am on the wrong side of 50+ to be able to remember the Bi-Afran famine of the 60s), famines and conflict in Africa have existed previously and will continue to exist, their problems are complex and the root causes vary fron country to country within the African continent and a one size fits all soloution does not fix their problems for the long term.
      Not once though did you mention the Chinese giving aid and helping build suitable and sustainable infrastructure and community assets along with investment, after all they now are there in ever increasing numbers buying up lands and mining leases feeding fat cats, BUT,,, the jobs are starting to filter through the economy and the people are being fed by their own hands.

      Africas’ problems are not all due to drought, in the best of times most live in dire poverty cruely ruled over by dysfunctional tribal elders and warlords,, where fear, hunger, malnutrition, cruelty and chaos is an everyday event and drought is the tipping point.

      Nothing will change until the handouts stop and the poorer people of this planet are empowered with knowlege,  ability, and peace.
      They need our money not as handouts much like a fish, but as investment more like a fishing line and yabby pump, so that they can help themselves when hard times come.

      Empowerment of the individual is the answer to all problems, think about it.

    • Kika says:

      01:58pm | 14/06/12

      I’ve actually seen a BBC documentary about the Chinese investment. Whilst they are building what needs to be built, they are importing their own labour. African contractors are being passed up for cheap chinese ones. The work isn’t actually going into the community as they promised it would.

    • Empowerment says:

      12:04am | 15/06/12

      @ Kika,,I thought it was all going swimmingly, it’s a great shame that the Africans were ruined by colonialism, and are now getting screwed over by the Chinese.
      Sounds like a familiar tune here in OZ with 457 BS Visas. the only difference is the Africans won’t put up with too much crap for too long and aren’t afraid to get nasty about it.
      Foreigen investment is good, so long as it’s not invasion by stealth.

    • thatmosis says:

      11:39am | 14/06/12

      A truly sad story but of their own or their Governments making. As for money being given to charity that stopped in our household when my lovely wife volunteered to help a certain charity at their headquarters in Brisbane and saw the waste that those supposed to be running the pace did. The volunteers had to supply their own tea and biscuits but two hours all expense paid lunches were the order of the day amongst the hierarchy. The directors all had flashy new vehicles, mostly 4WD’s paid for by the charity and a list of perks that would turn a Union rep green with envy.
      No sorry, stories like this although tragic don’t cut the mustard any more. The problem starts with the Governments of those countries and ends with the Governments of those countries.

    • Anniebello says:

      12:04am | 15/06/12

      “The problem starts with the Governments of those countries and ends with the Governments of those countries”
      and that is the abosolute truth thatmosis.
      My dad is 70-odd and as a kid in the Netherlands raised money for the ‘rice appeal’ in Africa. I remember doing the same at school here - little blue and white boxes, put in your pocket money and save the kid in the black and white photo. And now my kids are being asked to do it AGAIN. Enough with the guilt trips from the likes of Tim Costello. 
      Until Africa starts sorting out their own shite, and supporting their own people, why should the rest of the world continue to pay for warlords and dicators to live the 5 star lifestyle while their people starve?

    • LaDiva says:

      12:55pm | 14/06/12

      I will no longer donate through World Vision. My ex husband and I sponsored a child through World Vision and while we expected that a certain percentage of our sponsorship money would go toward administrative costs, what we did not expect was to be inundated on a regular basis with glossy brochures, magazines, calendars and the like, always accompanied by the obligatory letter attempting to guilt us into either increasing our monthly sponsorship or making a substantial “one off” donation. Once we were even sent a pack of football-type cards intended for our sponsor child which we were asked to sign and return to World Vision with a payment of fifteen dollars to cover postage. I am sure our sponsor child would have preferred clean water or access to medical care over a packet of cards.

      I now support two different organizations who do similar work in Africa and elsewhere and who don’t waste money on glossy advertising or feel-good gimmicks.

    • ronny jonny says:

      02:43pm | 14/06/12

      I would recommend you all have a read of PJ O’Rourkes’ “All the Trouble in the World”, the chapter on overpopulation. Too much of them, just the right amount of me. Might open your eyes a bit.
      As Mr O’Rourke says, overpopulation isn’t the problem, politics is the problem. Of particular interest is his comparison of population densities and resources.

    • ronny jonny says:

      02:43pm | 14/06/12

      I would recommend you all have a read of PJ O’Rourkes’ “All the Trouble in the World”, the chapter on overpopulation. Too much of them, just the right amount of me. Might open your eyes a bit.
      As Mr O’Rourke says, overpopulation isn’t the problem, politics is the problem. Of particular interest is his comparison of population densities and resources.

    • renold says:

      02:52pm | 14/06/12

      Trillions of dollars are spend on wars, weapon development and all justified by “the powerfull”

      Millions of children starving and or facing horrible futures

      Enough said

    • Drskelly says:

      03:46pm | 14/06/12

      Niger population in 1950 was 2.5 million. Since the they’ve had 5 republics and the last coup was a couple of years ago. Population 10 years ago was 10 million and now it’s 15 million and in tn years time there will be another 10, so Niger will have as many people, 26 million, as Australia. In the Sahara desert!  It’s not sustainable and for every life that is saved now, at least two people will die in the future. There is no easy answer for Niger but World Vision’s actions are cruel and simplistic.

    • Ben says:

      03:59pm | 14/06/12

      Anyone out there like to swap Julia Gillard for a goat?

    • thomas vesely says:

      05:31pm | 14/06/12

      its coming.

    • PW says:

      10:12pm | 14/06/12


      Comeback of the week. Nice work.

    • Boop says:

      05:08pm | 14/06/12

      The only way to fix the basket case that is Africa is to bring back imperialism. Let’s face it, their culture is backwards and they can’t help themselves, so let’s go in and colonise the joint, build cities and bring in lots of western people to manage the land.

    • Ben says:

      05:54pm | 14/06/12

      All of us Westerners are blinded by greed. We should remove our rose-coloured glasses and replace them with orange ones, thereby seeing the truth for what it is. Once that is done we are free to give pious lectures to Western government on one hand, while on the other shift our tax affairs to the Low Countries. Ain’t life grand?

    • Utopia Boy says:

      06:52pm | 14/06/12

      It’s hardly a food crisis. It’s a political crisis. Across the whole of Northern and Middle Africa.
      The politicians in those countries are not hungry.
      These nations, if they need help, need to ask for assistance from countries in their own region, and the extremely wealthy ones - Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE etc. After all, it’s the nations in turmoil who sent their slave labourers from Africa to the middle east in order to build the despots their nice marinas, skyscrapers and palaces.
      The West did our bit in the ‘80s with Live Aid and Band Aid, and then again a couple of years ago. It was a finger in the dyke solution at best.
      I won’t be blackmailed into donating or supporting the cause again. It’s all about oil, diamonds, gold and power.

    • stephen says:

      09:28pm | 14/06/12

      Giving money is a political act.
      It is an example of our concern for the welfare and development of another nation, and as such, should be viewed as not charity, but a furtherance of their aims and a conciliation of regional imbalances.

      I think a lot of contributors here mistake the real purpose of money in this day and age.
      (Most, I believe, must only want to be consumers or retailers.)

      We should give money because, at the moment, there is no other choice .
      If we are part of a civilization that sent men to the moon 40 years ago, and have told the USSR to tear down their wall soon after that, then I maintain that we have no choice but to assist, monetarily, the poorer nations who have not been part of our Industrial Age, but which we have exploited, labour wise and via ‘ignorance’, (culturally, I mean here, and to which we are now being thoroughly brought back to our regrets) so that, not that we should regret ourselves and respond negatively, but that our exuberance at our own fidelity should force the issue : we have no choice now ; only the sleights of China and Russia, (with their ownership of Middle East stupidities) might make our vision complicated.

    • PW says:

      10:04pm | 14/06/12

      It was noted somewhere recently that Gina Rinehart has enough money to feed all the starving in the world for a full year. What do you think would happen if she did just that (apart from a sharp increase in the price of food)?

      I’ll tell you what. They would reproduce like rabbits, and at the end of the year, when Gina’s money ran out, there would be a larger problem that you started with.

      Sending aid to the impoverished doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because very little of it reaches those who need it, and it doesn’t work because what does reach them allows them to increase further in numbers thereby increasing the problem. You cannot sustain the unsustainable.

      Those who donate do it for the feel good factor, because it achieves nothing else.

    • John says:

      08:22pm | 16/06/12

      Ahh the religion of peace in action again.


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