Skyrocketing prices for food and fuel have pushed more than 130 million poor people across parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America deeper into poverty in the past year, and guess who are the "hungriest" and "skinniest" victims? Women. Malnutrition among females is emerging as a "hidden consequence" of the food crisis, reports Kevin Sullivan for the Washington Post. Sullivan's focus is the African nation of Burkina Faso, where he follows the life of a woman named Fanta Lingani, who starts her backbreaking streetsweeping job at 4:30 am and makes $10 a month.
On her way to the market, Lingani explained the ugly math: A year ago, she could feed her entire family a nutritious meal of meat and vegetables and peanut sauce for about 75 cents. But now the family gets much lower-quality food for twice the price … "When the children ask for food, we have to give it to them," she said. "We're mothers."
It's not just an economic problem; it's also cultural. Shopping and cooking, aka making sure the family has food, is "the job of women," Lingani's husband, a retired police officer, says. He has three wives. One, who is nearly blind, can't do chores. Lingani and the other working wife each give part of their salary to their husband, and he gets a bowl of food that is roughly the same size as one that the two wives and eight small grandchildren share. (The food is dried fish and baobab leaves flavored with potash, a paste made by boiling down water strained through ashes.)
A recent study has shown that people in Burkina Faso spend 75% of their income on food. Pregnant women and young mothers sacrifice medical care; some turn to prostitution to pay for food. Families who can't pay for school and school clothes take girls out of school. There's no upside here people, just something to think about when we're complaining about the price of Starbucks or gas.