Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

April 4, 2008
Skip to Part II

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.

The head of the United Nations' world food program says "a perfect storm" is hitting hungry people around the globe.   The cost of food is soaring.  Food riots have broken out in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Egypt, where the price of bread rose 10 times in a week.  Afghanistan has asked for urgent help.  Forty countries are judged to be at risk of serious hunger, or already suffering from it.

  Here in America the number of people using food stamps is projected to be the highest since the program began in the 1960s.  Next week we'll look at hunger in America, but tonight, our subject is what's happening among the poorest of the poor in the world. We begin with a report from the center of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Few places on earth have been as troubled as this large and complex country — three times the size of Texas. In the 19th century King Leopold II of Belgium treated it as his  private treasure trove, plundering its  ivory and rubber.  We knew it as the Belgian Congo in the early 1900s, and then, after independence, as "Zaire." For three decades the country was run by Dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, whose brutality and corruption as propped up by western business and political interests, including generations of American presidents.

In 1994 chaos erupted as refugees and warring parties from neighboring Rwanda spilled over the border.  After fierce fighting, the rebel army finally forced the dictator into exile and Zaire became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  But five million people have died; the carnage has been devastating, and the country's resources exploited by local and foreign predators.

Despite national elections and an official end to the fighting, the suffering continues to this day.  45,000 people are said to die every month of hunger and disease.  

Take a train from Lubumbashi to Likasa and the Congolese will talk freely about the tragedy of their country.

Whatever happens to the Congo over the long term, right now the task is getting food to those hungry people.  My colleague David Murdoch went there to see how it's being done.  Here is his report of how some people manage to do the best of things in the worst of times.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Congo, it's a country that through years of war and neglect-- it's completely crumbled.

BILL MOYERS: Dominic MacSorely is Emergency Director for Concern Worldwide, an international aid organization. Over the past fourteen years, he has run four different missions in the Congo.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Globally, we have to go to find the populations that are least well-served that absolutely require the aid.

Within an area like the Congo, you know, you can put your finger in any part of the map, and probably find a need. This is a huge, huge country. Among a population of 50-60 million, essentially, everything in this-the infrastructure is completely broken.

I mean, I've worked in many countries, but I think this is probably the biggest and the most challenging, in terms of getting supplies from A to B.

BILL MOYERS: MacSorely has landed in Eastern Congo to check on local relief efforts to feed over twenty-six thousand people. This outpost is a thousand miles from the country's capital — Kinshasa.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: There is, effectively, no functioning government in the areas that we're working in. The aid agencies are almost substituting for a social welfare system that hasn't operated in these areas for decades.

PETER DOYLE: Well, right now, we're loading up four trucks. Each truck can take about 10, 11 tons. And so, about 40 tons altogether.

The food is going to the people from the villages. Basically, these are people that were displaced during the war, and they've returned to their villages.

BILL MOYERS: Concern Worldwide and Doctors Without Borders are the only two aid organizations serving the remote villages in this region. Both groups came here to help families displaced by war return home.

Things are quiet now in this part of the Congo. A ceasefire seems to be holding. But no one knows how long the peace will last.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY (on radio): "Okay, merci. A plus tarde.."

SARAH O'BOYLE: We're going to Disa today to do a food distribution. And we're distributing seeds and food to approximately 500 families.

And we're giving out WFP food rations-- flour, salt, oil and peas.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Do we pass through many villages on the way?

SARAH O'BOYLE: About five or six.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: You know, a year ago-- there was never anybody on the road. And you would never, never see a woman or two women walking down the road. And I asked in a number of villages why was that. And they said, "Because Mai-Mai have gone but the military are here. And the women and the girls are afraid to go out on the road on their own."

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: There's a lot of kids in this village.

SARAH O'BOYLE: There's a lot of kids in every village.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: This is exceptional!


SARAH O'BOYLE: They're all going to school.


BILL MOYERS: This is the story rarely covered on the evening news. These families have returned to their villages to rebuild their lives. They are starting from scratch.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Basically this area has been caught up in war for the last two or three years. Fighting between Congolese military and the Mai Mai - which is, you know, the local rebel force here.

This area was known as "The Triangle of Death "

AIMERANCE HKULU: (subtitle) In this part of the country there was war, we were on the run. We could not afford to look back. A lot of people died, there was a lot of suffering, people sick with many diseases.

ANATOLE KULU: (subtitle) Two of my children were killed, one by government troops and one by the rebels. And my daughter and her baby died from cholera.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: We're the first people essentially who've come into this environment-- after the war. And you have to be really, really careful, and really realistic about saying, "We're not a police force. We're not a military force. We're here to provide basic humanitarian assistance."

BILL MOYERS: The distribution is run by Congolese — many of them from Lubumbashi — the nearest big city.

AUGUSTIN NGOIE: My family is living in Lubumbashi. I know it is really difficult, but we have to help our neighbors or friends and it's my job. They are the people like us, but they need everything.

DAVID ILUNGA (subtitle): People were afraid to return to their villages. But when they saw us come in, they began to come back and have hope that they could get back the life they lost.

BILL MOYERS: Local villagers — here to get food — also help out — earning some spending money in the process. A handful of international workers is stationed here to help organize the relief efforts.

SARAH O'BOYLE: People here are just happy that agencies like Concern and like Doctors Without Borders are here, because they've been neglected over the last few years - and quite badly neglected.

People are happy to be recognized and to have somebody coming in, listening to them, trying to help them, trying to support them.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Remember we're bringing food into an area that has been, there's been no food for the last two years and people know that if they don't get their food today, if they don't get enough food today, that they're really, really gonna struggle.

AID WORKER: Pardon! Pardon! Pardon!

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: People are just impatient, you know, I don't know - it's a little bit tense.

CONCERN WORKER: Mwilambwe Balowa!

BILL MOYERS: For Concern, every distribution is a gamble. Word spreads quickly through the forest — help is on the way. But getting anything delivered in the Congo is a complicated process.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Wow. Let's just talk about - so this is Lubumbashi right down here.


DOMINIC MACSORLEY: so all of this stuff is…

PETER DOYLE: ...coming from Lubumbashi…

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: ...coming from there, you purchase it down there.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: And do you know, like, you know before the war, was this area very impoverished or very marginalized?

PETER DOYLE: When you speak to people who have been here a long time they'll tell you that it was much better back then. There was a lot more agricultural production. There was trucks coming in from Lubumbashi to get the grain, nuts, and things.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: But the roads and bridges and all would have been destroyed.

PETER DOYLE: Yeah. Before, in the dry season you could have done that in one day.




BILL MOYERS: Concern must deliver food to villages 75 miles deep in the forest. But the roads around here are little more than dirt paths, and trucks are scarce, so Concern is using the local form transportation — bicycles.

PETER DOYLE: Well, today we're loading up the bicycles. We have about 70 guys, gonna take about 7 tons in total. So that food will be used to serve 150 families. Approximately 600 people.

These are people that own bikes or else they hire bikes from other people. And that's how they make their living. They basically will transport stuff around.

CONCERN WORKER: Tutu Moke! Tutu Moke!

PETER DOYLE: That's their livelihood, that they're on the road with their bikes the whole time.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): On the mountain this one is my "first gear."

Swahili: Apa , joo penyewe mina bambiyaka …. Mu kilima….. Mu kilima , uyu ni premier vitesse (laughter) , ni premiere vitess ii.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): And then, this is "second gear," when I have to push like this.

Swhaili: deuxieme, joo uyu, mina mubamba uyo, uyo joo deuxieme

BILL MOYERS: Using bikes may seem like a crude way to move tons of food, but in eastern Congo there aren't many options. You can fly food in but that's three times as expensive, hard to organize and not very efficient. The few trucks available in this region often break down, or become stuck by-passing the bridges destroyed during the war. And so it falls to hungry men with bikes to deliver food to hungrier people living in the remote villages.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: This is slow but steady I mean it's guaranteed. You know we tried the trucks cause you know ultimately, you know, we have to deliver by deadline. And a truck will take 30 tons, okay?

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: These 70 guys will only take 7 tons but they'll get there, it may take a bit longer but they'll get there. And at the end they get paid. Money is going back into the community. I actually think it's a it's a better way of doing it.

BILL MOYERS: Tutu Moke has the reputation for being one of the best bike guys around. If all goes well, his bags of dried peas, numbered 43, will make it to the location in three days.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: As aid agencies, you really need to put yourself in the position of somebody who has to go through what is, essentially, a dehumanizing experience. So if you can get them to participate and work within the kind of process that you're putting in place, then they become part of their own solution.

And I think that that's so important.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): The pressure is low, I could get a flat on these rocky roads. But with enough pressure it will move nicely. These cheap Chinese tires don't last very long.

Swahili: Ni pompe mbele, ni larike kinga. Mpepo inakuya kiloko.. Ni pompe mbele. Aiiya eneya ata. Ichi ngari kiloko, acha nyongeze mbele. Bashi mu maiibwe umu tuko na enda , ina wezi inatoboka. Kama muko mpepo ya mingi ita enda muzuri. Sasa ma pirate iyi beko natuleteya ba chinois aii kawe.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Any day that we get food out is a good day and today's a great day.

We have 70 bikes that are on the road this morning and in three days time, they are going to be delivering enough food that will feed 150 families for the next month. And that's fantastic.

BILL MOYERS: The bikes will be passing through what was once a no-man's land. This was part of "The Triangle of Death." Where armies from Congo and Rwanda clashed with each other and with a local rebel group called the Mai-Mai. For much of the past ten years, very few people would have dared to ride these roads.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): I have made five trips. This is the sixth one. If Concern can add some more trips, I would love to have the work.

I am used to this trip, I know all the roads.

When I'm riding the bike, it means that the road is good, no sand, no holes and no hills. But when I see a problem on the road, I get off and push.

If my bike breaks down, that's the end, so I must be careful.

BILL MOYERS: The bikes travel a road that was destroyed during the war - torn up by one army or another to slow down the opposition.

The Congolese government isn't here to fix the roads, so Concern is tackling the job.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: What's the urgency, I mean, of our work? Are we trying to get all this work done before the rains?

DJANI ZADI: Definitely because once the-- once the rain is here, basically, you can do nothing. You can do nothing.

BILL MOYERS: Everything in eastern Congo revolves around the rainy season. It lasts about three months and during that time the roads become impassable rivers of mud.

Djani Zadi, a concern staffer from France, is trying to rebuild key sections of the road before the rains arrive.

DJANI ZADI: When I first got here people were coming back in their villages. But after years of war you can imagine that everything had been destroyed. They had nothing. It was very hard situation for them.

DJANI ZADI: Over a year, personally, I've seen a lot.

I was due to stay six months. But after six months it's very frustrating to-- to think that you've got so much to do. So I decided to stay longer.

DJANI ZADI (subtitle): Hi, friends!

Swahili: jambo ma rafiki!

WORKERS (subtitle): Hello.

Swahil): jambo

DJANI ZADI (Subtitle): How are you doing?

Swahili: habari

WORKERS (Subtitle): Very fine, what about you?

Swahili: Muzuri, paka weye

DJANI ZADI (Subtitle): Very good.

Kiluba: eyo vije DJANI ZADI (Subtitle): How many workers do we have today?

French: D'accord, et vous etes combien maintenant?

WORKER IN BLUE (Subtitle): We are thirteen.

French: nous sommes 13

DJANI ZADI: (subtitles) Make the road slope like this. Just like you did before. That's perfect.

French: Mettre la route bien en courbe comme ca. Comme vous avez fait un peu plus haut la bas. C'etait parfait. Okay?

DJANI ZADI: We need to raise the road by one meter fifty.

They dig that channels, okay? And they take the earth, to put that in the middle, so you raise by 50 centimeters. Then, you put the wood. Then cover.

Then they dig again. And then the last part, the cherry on the cake, will be the gravel that our truck will bring.

The challenge is big. This portion makes 800 meters; imagine the amount of cubic meters of earth we have to move and we don't have bulldozer, just men and women.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: Djani, he's in charge of you know, supporting, basically, the whole operation,

DJANI ZADI: Jambo ma rafiki

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: from the logistics to managing the drivers to making sure that the guys who are building the bridges have the wood.

He's out there, he's learning what's happening, he's understanding what's happening in the villages. It's really important.

WORKER (Subtitle): Let him see the bridge!

Kiluba: tata keba lombole kilalo

DJANI ZADI (Subtitle): What is going on with the bridge?

French: qu'est qui se passe sur le pont?

NKULU: (Subtitle) There are cracks. The problem is erosion. We need to dig a trench.

French: Le probleme d'erosion, il faut avoir ici un cannal,l'eau derrange trop.

DJANI ZADI: (Subtitle) Yes indeed, we did not see it.

French: aah, effectivement, oui on n'a pas vu ca.

WORKER (Subtitle): The other side, too!

French: cette partie. Vous voyez,

DJANI ZADI: I knew coming here in the bush... ayi, yi, yi,... doing that kind of work would be difficult, when you are here you realize that it's sometimes a bit harder than what you expected.

I do it because when you balance your life against what you achieve and your work. Okay, there's not question to be asked. It's worth it.

When you are in your Western societies you see things differently. People definitely can't understand. Don't understand and can't understand. I've been disappointed to see that when I come back home, even with my closest friends.

You have so much to tell them about. And after five minutes nobody's listening to you anymore. And-- they are talking about the new car they, they bought and the next movie release that they're going to see. Things like that. Maybe it's too, too painful. I really can't say but, really -- five, ten minutes then they switch the conversation.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): When the war started, I was in eighth grade. My father and my mother took care of me. They bought me every thing I needed and paid my tuition.

I was young, and I never thought life would be like this.

See this sauce we are eating? Our small salary makes it difficult to afford.

Swahili: Na mamboka tu ko na kula njo vile. Sasa makuta kidogo beko na teswa teswa tu.

TUTU'S FRIEND #1 (subtitle): We do not have enough food at home.

Swahili: ma ration yenyewe aionekane

TUTU MOKE: (subtitle) I am a displaced person, I have nothing.

Swahili: ma ration yenyewe aionekane mimi niko deplace sina na kitu ata.

TUTU MOKE: (subtitle): I want to go back home, but I have no resources -- nothing.

Swahili: niko na lazima ya kwenda kwetu sasa moyen sina. Moyen sina ata. Sina moyen ata aseme ifike kwetu.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): We are educated, but nothing comes of it. I have a high school diploma. I got it in 2005. I have no job. I am a bicycle transporter. I am doing this because of the wars.

If I could find a job affiliated with my education, I would do it happily.

BILL MOYERS: The people in these villages are so isolated, there is only one other aid group here to help them — Doctors Without Borders.

Canadian doctor Mai-Anh Levan has been treating villagers here for three months.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: So, we're going to a village called Kishale where there -- there's an epidemic of cholera.

We've had now, as of this hour, 21 patients in the last three weeks, which really qualifies for a cholera epidemic in a village of this density.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: Bonjour papa, bonjour, mama. Comment ca va.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: We found the first case on the road three weeks ago, and since then more cases have come in, so we brought in more logistics, more tents, more nurses, more materials to work with.

MAI-ANH LEVAN (subtitle): Yesterday, I know there was a new case. And today?

MAN IN WHITE LAB COAT (subtitle): Yes, another this morning.

MAI-ANH LEVAN (subtitle): So it is spreading, huh?

MAI-ANH LEVAN: Oh, this kid's not well, eh? Our child is very, uh, very tired looking.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: Oh, salute la pus. Oh, il a soif. The child is very thirsty.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: This child is actually too nauseated, that's why he's not drinking.

We have to be very aggressive with the fluid resuscitation. That's why he's hooked up with an IV.

Cholera, treated, has 100% recovery. They just have to come in time before they go into shock and they die.

I think humanitarian help-- I mean, it's not just going out there and giving them things. You have to it in a very organized way in a very developmental way. And to also think long-term.

MAI-ANH LEVAN (subtitle): We've admitted so many patients!

PAPA JEAN PAUL: (subtitle): Yes, so many.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: (subtitle): You are filled to capacity.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: So this is Plan C, which means over 15% dehydration. So they absolutely need intravenous.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: I have a fairly busy practice at home, but I wanted a change. And it was a good time in my life to do this sort of thing. I'd always wanted to do humanitarian work.

MAI-ANH LEVAN: They need help. They need help. It's always felt right to me, to do humanitarian work since the very beginning.

I went into medical school to do this sort of thing, initially.

BILL MOYERS: Of the more than five million deaths caused by the conflict in the Congo, the vast majority were due to malnutritian and disease.

MSF SPRAY WORKER (subtitle): Hello, come and see. I need to go inside your home to spray. Then I'll spray the toilet and the whole area. Do you understand?

WOMAN WITH BABY (subtitle): Yes.

BILL MOYERS: If it weren't for Doctors Without Borders, there would be no trained physicians in this part of the Congo the people out here are on their own.

TUTU MOKE: (Singing)(subtitle): Water, water

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): Good afternoon.

WOMAN #2 (subtitle): How are you?

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): We Africans love each other.

If I need water, I go to someone's home and they will give me water. Water is from God, no man should sell water.

The people are used to us because we travel this road often. After they give us water, they ask for nothing in return. We are almost relatives.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): Mother, how are you doing?

WOMAN #2 (subtitle): Good, thank you.

WOMAN #2 (subtitle): How was your trip?

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): Good, we are leaving now. Take care of your little one.


TUTU MOKE (subtitle): Hi!

PERSON OFF CAMERA (subtitle): Have a nice trip!

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): Thank you very much. Good health.

BILL MOYERS: Adding to the nightmarish violence — was a ruthless rebel leader turned outlaw called Gedeon …

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): Now in 2003, there was this bandit Gedeon. He went everywhere burning houses. All these houses burned, he made us suffer. They were called --Mai-Mai.

Gedeon burned all the houses along this road up to Shamwana. There were no houses here. They burned and destroyed all of them.

BILL MOYERS: Some of the worst days came in 2006. When the Congolese Army launched a campaign against the Mai Mai rebels.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: What we had about two or three years ago was a major conflict between-- what was known as the Mai Mai rebels, that operated throughout all these villages and the Congolese military, who said, "We're coming in. We're taking your weapons. And we are taking control of these areas."

SOLDIER: Titero (Rebel fighter)

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: As a result, the population got completely caught up. They were stuck right in the middle of this conflict.

One hundred and sixty thousand people left their homes. They went into-- nearby towns, walking three or four days. Twelve thousand people took shelter in Dubie, and the camps sprang up. And the agencies were able to come up, and provide a level of assistance there.

For the rest of the population, they went into the bush. And that area of the Triangle of Death, was largely inaccessible because the conflict was raging.

THEOPHILE KISHIMBA (Subtitle): We suffered so much in the wilderness.

French: Ce que m'est arrivé c'est seulement nous avions beacoup souffert dans la brousse.

THEOPHILE KISHIMBA (Subtitle): We lived in the forest for about eight months.

French: Ce que m'est arrivé c'est seulement nous avions beacoup souffert dans la brousse. C'est à peine de six mois, huit mois comme ça qu'on était dans la brousse

ANATOLE KULU (Subtitle): We were sleeping on the ground, with nothing to cover ourselves. When it rained, we stood up like statues, shivering from cold. We didn't have matches. We started fires by rubbing sticks together like our ancestors.


DOMINIC MACSORLEY: There was ten or twelve skulls that were here but now they are gone, they've disappeared...Ce quoi, c'est…Yeah, it's a femur.

Everybody knows that these are soldiers, when there is a conflict between the two armies and the soldiers are killed, they are left there.

If these were villagers, their family would have come and collected the bones and buried them. So the soldiers don't get buried. Okay.

I always think these environments are deceptive because you go in and people are smiling and kids are laughing and you know they are waving to you on the road and then you stop on the road and then you come in and then, you're looking at bones.

Everybody has lost somebody. Everybody has buried a father, or a son, or they've seen neighbors kill…their children. The amount of violence in these villages is actually hard to see until you sit down, and you talk to people, and you realize that they went through hell. They went through absolute hell.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): During the war we suffered a lot. We ran away from the Rwandans into the forest for a long time, about three months. We had no clothes, no soap, and very little food. We dug for wild yams, -- no way out.

Swahili: Ile nvinta ili tutswa sana tu ka kimbiya ba Rwandais tu na kimbilya mu mapori. Tu na kimbilya muma pori tunakaya sana mienzi mingi miyenzi kama tatu ivi tu likuya mumapri. Tu ka teswa sana atuna na bia kuvwala, ma sabuni atuna biakula biko kiloko tu na kuria paka bilazi ya pori. Moyen akuna.

TUTU MOKE: (Subtitle): The militia group called Mai Mai tortured people.

Swahili: ananza ki Mai Mai. Njo ba kanza kuteswa batu beko na pika batu, ku uwa uwa batu.

TUTU MOKE: They even killed my father's wife.

Swahili: Ba na fika na ku uwa bibi ya papa.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): She was killed in front of the whole village and burned to ashes.

Swahili: Bana mu uwa ba na muchoma, bana muchoma na moto.

TUTU MOKE: (Subtitle): Before the wars we were fine, we had plenty of food.

Swahili: ile mbele ma guerre aiyafika tulianza kuikala tu muzuri. Tulikuya na chakula mingi.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): My father was able to take care of all us.

Swahili: Papa mwenyewe alianza tu kutu supporter.

TUTU MOKE: (Subtitle) Now my father has no means, his fields were burned to ashes. Every possession was taken. Back then we were fine, now we are in trouble.

Swahili: Sasa apa papa asina tena na ma moyen, ile ma moyen yote ili ishaka. Mashamba yote bali choma ka . Bitu yote akuna kitu ata moya. Ile maisha yambele ya nvita tu likuyaka muzuri. Sasa apa akuna tena moyen.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: What are the three key things you think about Congo? You think about corruption. You think about war. You think about death.

People go, you know, "It's a basket case."

And yet, you come here and the one thing that you learn really, really quickly is: the spirit of the people that have been living this, I mean that really hasn't dampened.

The massive potential…in terms of the resources but also among the population itself — if that could be harnessed, then the future for this country should be much, much brighter than it is.

BILL MOYERS: Three days after setting out, tutu arrives at the depot with 200 pounds of dried peas.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): I'm a bit tired. I was soaked by the rain and I am so hungry. But still, I'm glad to have made it here with the load.

Swahili: Miye mina sikiya paka muchoko kilogo. Nvula ina tu pika pika na njala,njala ya kweli apa. Mina pa ta furaha mina fikisha charge yote.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): I am happy, the people will have some food and I will get some money, which will really help me out.

Swahili: Mina siya furaha ju ya chakula ni ya ba dunku yetu. Ibasaidiya gisi iko na saidiya batu bote.Na miye ni na oneyako ba na nisaidya ju na miye niko na oenaya mo mina pata ko na makuta.

TUTU MOKE (subtitle): I am done here, I have no other job. So I will go plant my own food. That's all.

Swahili: Kama mi na isha apa mi sina tena na kazi ta weza kutumika. Penyewe mina pata tena kazi taweza kutmika. Ni paka kulima to milimo kuna iasha.

BILL MOYERS: This will be the last food distribution before the rainy season begins.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: We are contracted by the World Food Program for this region to do food distribution and they're the ones who are providing us with a 21 day food supply for each family, enough food to see them through the planting season.

BILL MOYERS: Concern knows that handing out food is a temporary fix for the villagers. And so they also give them something for the future: bean seeds to be planted and harvested… ...and tools to work the land.

SARAH O'BOYLE: We give the food out at the same time as the seeds. So, it gives the people energy to actually cultivate the land, and then it reduces the risk that they will eat the seeds if they're hungry.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: It's actually protecting the seed so that they'll have a harvest. 'Cause last year there were a number of families that didn't get the protection ration, ate the seed and they're as vulnerable as they were a year ago.

NKULU MUJINGA (subtitle): We first saw the aid workers up here last month. This is the first time they have come as far as our village.

NKULU MUJINGA (Subtitle): During the war, my husband got sick. We got stuck in the middle of two war zones. Then he died, he passed three years ago.

NKULU MUJINGA (subtitle): When we heard the war was coming, all we could do was grab the kids and leave.

NKULU MUJINGA (subtitle): And when we came back, everything was burned. Our home was destroyed. There was nothing left. We were hopeless -- no bowl, no plates, no table, everything went up in flames. All we found was ruins.

NKULU MUJINGA (Subtitle): The seeds they gave us are for planting, not for eating. We will only eat the flour and peas and plant the beans.

Kiluba: Nkuna a kukuna, kudima. Bukula bwa kudia. Enda longa uno masusu ekiteleja eke ena akudia. Pa be tupe nkuna, ke tujina, ndjime, bukula ndje ke monka.

NKULU MUJINGA (Subtitle): We can't rely on the assistance forever. There will be a time when no one will be willing to help. Someday we will get our old lives back, if God hears our prayers.

Kiluba: Ita ya twenda nayo. Eyi bintu bia kwashi nabio tufika djesha anu nanki, ke be tubile bio ne kumbele, ke tukafika mu kutukwashi. Ne monka mutasabudila ne bumi, tupete bukome kudima kupita na kwa wadi na milango onso asaka kupwa.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: The whole recovery is so encouraging. But deep down, people are still very apprehensive about what the future's going to hold. Because they still don't believe that we have completely turned a corner.

What they're saying is, "What happens if there isn't enough to eat in the village? Will the guys who carried the guns pick 'em up again?" That's their fear. "If there isn't enough to eat, somebody will pick up a gun again and take enough to eat."

NKULU MUJINGA (subtitle): When there is war, we suffer endlessly. It destroys our lives. Once fighting is over and peace is restored, then everything will be possible.

Kiluba: Mumoni, mwini inamini ni nvita. Nvita butupwila tisi konka, kamono kekala nkonka, kadi ketukana kako, kasusula Bantu. Nvita ijokejele Bantu nyuma, ya Bantu bafwila mushinda, balonga kika i nvita, masusu endele ko kudilo kumbele. Shi kutupu ku tu leza kutu amba ne 'Mpe' ni ndoe. Kamwanyeke.

DOMINIC MACSORLEY: On a personal level you really look in these communities for positive things that's the motivating thing.

Has everything been crushed? Has the war destroyed everything? Is the human spirit, you know, now so defeated that it's going to take another generation? And I actually think that if you were able to bring people out here meet these kids and meet these mothers and-- because they all share the same kind of fundamental dreams that anybody has.

They want a better future for their kids.

And I think if people saw that, then they would realize and say, "Yes, they have a right to it."

When I see people struggling like that, I think it's just unacceptable in this day and age. It's completely unacceptable.

BILL MOYERS: We'll talk now with one of the leaders in the global fight against hunger. David Beckmann is an economist, who spent 15 years at the World Bank, and a Lutheran minister. He's a graduate of Yale, Christ Seminary, and the London School of Economics. He's president of the faith-based citizens' movement, Bread for the World, and the founder, as well, of the Alliance to End Hunger. Welcome.

Watching that young man who was at the end of the film there, the one who was, you know, Tutu the bike rider.


BILL MOYERS: What goes through your mind when you see him?

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, what I loved about it was that you showed the dignity of these people who are really, really poor. What's striking was when you visit those folks anywhere in the world, most people are generous. They're joyful. They maintain dignity in the worst circumstances. If you visit their homes, he would have shared that little-- you know, he didn't have enough of that sauce, but if you would have visited, he would have shared his sauce with you.

And I think lots of times when we think about hungry people, we see pictures of them with their arms cut off or something. And we think, oh, my God, this is hopeless. But what you saw in that man who rode the bike was the hard work, the dignity, the hope that all human beings have.

BILL MOYERS: What's the effect on a country like the Congo when something like 72 percent of its people or, in this case, 37 million people are under nourished? What does it mean on a practical day in and day out basis?

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, when people don't get enough to eat, adults are-- I mean, all of us know it. If you miss lunch, you're not very productive in the afternoon. If you have over a long period of time, if you haven't had enough to eat and you're a landless laborer, you kind of do a calculation at the beginning of the morning. It's not consciously but you figure, what's my chance of getting a job today? And if you walk to five or six farms, is it gonna be worth the calories of burning up those calories, walking to five or six farms to get to get work today?

So, people who are hungry chronically look lazy. You know, they because they don't have the kind of energy that God meant them to have. And then, the damage on children is terrible. Even, they can't learn. They can't, you know, you know it from our own kids. If they don't eat, they're naughty. They can't behave in school.

And then, little kids die. If kids have not had appropriate nutrition when they were in their mother's womb, in their first couple of years of life, then the chance that some little disease, you know, they get a stomach parasite and they die. Or if they don't die, they're stunted for life. So there is no more powerful way to invest in the future of a country than to feed the little kids.

BILL MOYERS: See, I'm sure many of our viewers watching that film will want to know, what can I do? Where can I send a check?


BILL MOYERS: Is there something I can do to volunteer? What's your answer to them? Because they're frustrated because they see people in need. And yet, they don't feel they know how to get to them.

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, I think we can send a check to Catholic Relief Services, CARE, Save the Children. Pick your international charity. That's important. But I think the best way to respond, the most effective way to respond is to put pressure on our elected officials.

To let them know that there are people back in South Dakota or Arizona who care about getting our government to do its part to open up opportunities for poor people. And it's what I'm excited about is that it's happened. In fact, we're making—

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, we're making progress against hunger and poverty in the world.

The problem with our government is we're not doing enough, but we're providing twice as much money for programs to reduce hunger and poverty around the world than we did in the year 2000. And it's making a difference, so

BILL MOYERS: Then why is the United Nations even as we talk asking saying it desperately needs another half a billion dollars to make up for what the United States is no longer sending abroad

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, the specific issue there is that food prices have gone up. So, the world food program provides food in places like Congo. And they've made commitments. And now they can't with the same amount of money that was appropriated earlier in the year, they can't provide as much food.

So, there's an immediate need there. But I think that we ought to take care of it. We've got to take care of it. But the broader picture in fact is remarkably hopeful. I mean, there's a lot of bad stuff happening in the world. But—

BILL MOYERS: Food riots in Indonesia. Food riots in Egypt.

DAVID BECKMANN: Right. Right, sure.

BILL MOYERS: The President of Afghanistan says we're desperate. El Salvador, a million people in jeopardy. I mean, I quoted in the first part of this show—

DAVID BECKMANN: You're right.

BILL MOYERS: That there are forty countries that are said to be, you know, in serious trouble. What's happening?

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, some of the immediate problem is because of the dramatic increase in food prices.

BILL MOYERS: And what's driving that?

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, part of it actually, it's a mixed story. Because the increase in food prices means that hungry that people on the edge of hunger in our country, around the world, a lot of those people have a big problem. But there's some good in this story.

The main reason why food prices are up is that hundreds of millions of people in India and China and other parts of the world are now eating. They didn't used to eat. So, they're driving up food prices.


DAVID BECKMANN: Right. I was just at a meeting yesterday with some people who are thinking about roads in Africa. And they're thinking this increase in food prices is here to stay. We've got to get roads to the port.

For most hungry people, the real long term solution is better roads, seeds, better farming. Those roads are important to the farmers. Because in Kenya for example, the cost of fertilizer is fifty times the cost of fertilizer in Iowa. Because if you drive a truck of fertilizer into rural Kenya, you're gonna break the truck because the roads aren't there.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. We saw that with that road.

DAVID BECKMANN: So in most the long term solution to hunger is not shipping in food from Iowa. The long term solution is seeds and technology and a decent road to the market, so that those people can grow their own food, make a decent living and buy what they need.

BILL MOYERS: But David, I can hear people, honest, compassionate people saying, you know, look; we've got problems in this country. Our food prices are rising. We've got to solve our problems at home before we can send more money abroad.

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, we're now spending about fourteen billion dollars a year to reduce poverty in the world, which is a lot of money. But in the federal budget, it's not. We think we ought to be spending another twenty billion dollars every year.

BILL MOYERS: Doing what?

DAVID BECKMANN: And what you can do with that is invest especially in countries, poor countries that have managed to get good governments and that are moving in the right direction. You can we can invest substantially in those countries, helping those with their agriculture. That's key. We can let every kid in the world go to school. Primary school, this is doable.

And it's now girls who don't get to go to school. If we can get those girls into school, they'll be better farmers. They'll be better mothers, smarter mothers. They're less likely to get AIDS. They'll have fewer children. So, education for all children, primary education. We ought to be able to do more with health care.

There a lot of things. You know, we saw in your report that if you get to somebody even with cholera early enough, cholera is always fixable. But most people die. You know, they don't get medical care. So and then there are lots of people dying of the most simple diseases that are dumb deaths.

So some money's not all. But we need more money, more effective use of money. And then in other ways, more attention to the problem of poverty in our country and around the world. And what's striking to me is that with a little bit of attention, we've been able to do a lot already.

BILL MOYERS: No one I know has traveled to more countries to look and work with hungry people. How do you sustain your own hope in the midst of the very situation you've just described when people are so hungry?

DAVID BECKMANN: Well, you know, I believe in the resurrection. So, you know, some of it's religious. That, you know, I think ups and downs of history aside, that we're headed towards a better world where there will be hunger no more.

So, there's a fundamental hope that comes from God. But then, the other thing that's given me a lot of hope that I didn't really have ten years ago is that just the evidence shows that hundreds of millions of people are escaping from hunger and poverty.

BILL MOYERS: It is true, is it not, that our farm policies, farm subsidies actually have a negative effect on the people we saw in the Congo and around the world?

DAVID BECKMANN: Yes. In general, our farm policies are part of a global system. The farm policies of the rich countries make it hard for those farmers in Africa and other poor parts of the world to make a living.

And so, Bread for the World works on farm bill reform. And we started this because African church leaders were saying to us, your farm policies are making it hard for our people to make a living. Your cotton is competing against cotton from Mali and Ethiopia. Big cotton farms in Arkansas are getting subsidies from the US Treasury, from the taxpayers. And that cotton competes against cotton from guys who are making two hundred dollars a year from Mali.

BILL MOYERS: But you can't blame the folks in Arkansas for wanting government subsidies.

DAVID BECKMANN: No. But we can change the system. It's not doing much for Arkansas either. It's doing some things for some very affluent farmers. But the money could be better used in Arkansas in rural Arkansas. And so you could have a better farm bill for America that would also reduce the extent to which our foreign policies are causing problems with farmers around the world.

BILL MOYERS: In this broadcast next week, we're going to look at farm subsidies in this country. And at the debate over the new farm bill. Will you come back and join me for that conversation?

DAVID BECKMANN: I'd love to. They're deciding it in Washington right now. So this is couldn't be more timely.

BILL MOYERS: See you next week.


BILL MOYERS: There's lots on our website about the fight against hunger.  Dominic MacSorley, whom you met in the film, is online to answer your questions. We will also link you to Bread for the World and other organizations working to overcome world hunger. That's it for the JOURNAL. Next week we'll look at hunger in America.

I'm Bill Moyers.

Moyers Podcasts -- Sign Up for podcasts and feeds.
Our posts and your comments
For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ