“We Don’t Even Have Money For Food”

Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

e have read a lot about violence in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, what with the ongoing war and the drone strikes and the utter senselessness of the killing of Afghan villagers, mostly women and children, in their sleep, or of American soldiers killed by supposedly friendly Afghan security forces.

But there is another kind of violence we don’t often read about. The Washington Post reported some stunning facts:

Around 60 percent of Pakistan’s 170 million people live at the poverty level of less than $2 per day, according to the World Bank.

Public school fees average only around $2 per month, but even this is often too much for poor Pakistanis with large families.

About 30 percent of Pakistanis have less than two years of education, according to a report issued last year by the Pakistani government.

And there is this sad story to go with those facts:

SUBHAN KHWAR, Pakistan, April 1 (UPI) — A 12-year-old Pakistani boy committed suicide by self-immolation because he was upset his family couldn’t afford a new school uniform, his mother said.

Kamran Bibi died of severe burns Friday after he set himself on fire March 25 in Subhan Khwarh village in the Charsadda district, The Express Tribune reported Sunday.

The boy had asked his mother, Shandana Bibi, for a new school uniform because the two pairs of clothes he had were worn out, she said.

“My son demanded money for a new uniform, which I failed to provide,” she told The Express Tribune.

“I refused to buy a new uniform because I didn’t have the money to even buy food. Where would I buy a new uniform from?” she asked.

But the sadness surrounding the facts about Pakistan and of this young boy continued:

“We rushed him to the hospital where he was admitted for five days in a critical condition before he died,” his mother said.

“Doctors demanded [$5,500] for Kamran’s treatment and we didn’t have it,” Kamran’s older brother Saleem said. “We don’t even have money for food.”

I don’t know how people who call themselves “doctors” can watch a 12-year-old kid suffer and die just because his parents are poor. And I don’t know how a country as poor as Pakistan can afford to spend 23% of its budget on the military, while spending only 1.3% on health and 7.8% on education.

And I certainly don’t know why the Pakistani government would spend as much on its Army in one day as it does in one year on education, or would spend much more on its Air Force in one day than all year on public health.

And who knows how much our so-called war on terror has cost the Pakistanis in blood and treasure, despite billions of dollars of American assistance over the last decade or so.

But what I do know is that what happened to Kamran Bibi is wrong on so many levels, and it is hard to accept that such things go on in a civilized world, a world in which the United States plays such a large role.

Perhaps, given the regional dynamics, there is nothing we can ultimately do to help those Kamran Bibis still struggling with day-to-day life in Pakistan. I just don’t know.

But there is something we can do here at home, as we contemplate how to reorder our own priorities, in the context of how much we spend on our military:


  1. ansonburlingame

     /  April 2, 2012

    Here we go with the charts again to make political points!

    Try some numbers. Medicare at $550 B, SS at $750 B, VA and federal portions of Medicaid about $300 B. Total for old age care and a safety net for former service personnel/poor people’s HC is around$1.5 Trillion, about twice our current level of defense spending.

    And of course just those areas consume more than we bring in for federal revenues each year and the rest of the federal government in on a tab of borrowing.

    But if you think Pakistan is bad, go to just about any country in Africa today

    I would also point out, again, that just “whacking” defense spending without a clear understanding of the geopolitics and macroeconomics of such “whacking” results in “noses being whacked off your face” as a result of unitended consequences.

    But we all know the solution for the kid in Pakistan right? Public options or universal care paid for by…….. in Pakistan?



  2. Angelfire

     /  April 3, 2012

    The first post sums up the whole conservative idea concerning what would happen to the old and the poor if the conservative has his/her way. In the conservative eyes there’s not a whole lot wrong with the system in Pakistan. Rich live. Poor die. Too bad.

    They deny it with venom but in their perfect world the poor would…. die. And the old would …. die. And anyone unable to maintain themselves….dies, be it the mentally retarded, the injured soldier, the disabled, the blind. The uneducated poor? In the perfect world of the conservative that’s a no-brainer. They STAY uneducated. No money…no education. Too bad.

    The conservative sees these people as parasites sucking the rich’s money and the country resources. They are dead weight holding our country back from greatness.

    Think of the bombs and the killing machines we could produce if we had all that “wasted” money geared towards our military instead of schools or social programs. Ah, what Christian values. What class. How proud God must be of those who carry His flag, profess common ground with him ….just to win elections?

    The conservative will deny away….as Hannity does when he mocks even the idea that the conservative would want the poor and old to die. “Look at,” he screams, “Medicare Part D!! WE DID THAT! RIGHT?”

    But in their hearts and between their sentences, behind the laughter and mockery of such a notion, there is that black message of death and total contempt for anyone un-rich, those they think of as the truly “chosen ones”.

    Americans should be terrified of these people.

    They are pure evil.


  3. AAA

     /  April 30, 2012

    Reading these sad stories, in America too there are poor families too with homeless as shelters are limited too, abused.. and restriction to food stamps……..i mean i ve been there still ‘hit rock bottom; God Knows… Please pray and help us and people around the world with financial difficulties.. food / shelter… especially knowing we have children to take care of..So please do nt watch those so called celebrtities show “Kardarshian..” who sspend milions not realizing in the US all over are poor and struggling families…stop making the Kardarshians richer… think about the under previleged! no food no home no medical…
    God save us I pray for the unprevileged…



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