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Under the Hawthorn Tree: Children of the Famine by. Marita Conlon-McKenna. Donald Teskey. Featured Book. Videos If you would like to provide a video review please sign up to our video panel.
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If you like this try Letters from the Lighthouse Letters from the Series This is Book 3 in the Children of the famine Series. Category See More Historical fiction. Sign up to our newsletter for It happened almost overnight. Then on 5 April , the place he had called home was suddenly cut off from the outside world. This article is part of a new BBC Future column called Worst Case Scenario , which looks at the extremes of the human experience and the remarkable resilience people display in the face of adversity.
It aims to look at ways people have coped when the worst happens and what lessons we can learn from their experiences. What he — along with almost , other inhabitants trapped inside Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serb Army — could not guess was that it was the start of a nightmare that would last nearly four years.
Fields of Home
In the Siege of Sarajevo, ordinary residents trapped inside the city would go about their lives to a daily thump of artillery and crack of sniper rifles. Even simply crossing the street or queuing for bread would become a life-threatening experience as the soldiers on the hills surrounding the city took pot-shots at the local populace. But while the bullets and shells fired into their city were a constant threat, Trbonja and his neighbours faced another, quieter foe from within: hunger.
By the time the siege ended in January , more than 11, people in Sarajevo were dead. Many died in the hail of shrapnel, explosives and bullets flung upon them, but almost certainly some perished of cold gas and electricity were cut off and starvation. But Trbonja remembers that despite the death and near constant destruction, the people of Sarajevo found extraordinary resilience.
The taste of those tomatoes grown on your own balcony was beautiful. It was a crucial step. Through the siege, more than 12, UN humanitarian aid flights brought in , tonnes of food, medicine and other goods. Those who were extremely rich could exchange jewellery, paintings, anything of value, for extra food on the black market.
For those without anything to exchange, they needed other ways of supplementing their meagre food rations. There were days where we only had a slice of bread and tea to see you through the day and others when there was nothing. It was real survival mode. Talking to Trbonja, it is hard to believe this unfolded in the heart of Europe less than 30 years ago. But stories like his have not been consigned to history either. Thanks to conflict, political unrest and drought, the world is currently in the midst of its worst famine since World War Two.
According to the Famine Early Warning System, a US organisation that predicts humanitarian emergencies, 85 million people will require emergency food assistance in across 46 countries — equivalent to the populations of the UK, Greece and Portugal put together. But while images of hunger-bloated children from the Ethiopian food crisis during the s have become seared onto Western consciousness, these modern famines are occurring almost unnoticed.
According to Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, one million people died every year from famine in the years leading up to s. The growth of global markets, better infrastructure and humanitarian systems nearly abolished famine. Until the last couple of years, that is. We can find our supermarket shelves stacked with produce from all over the world, even from countries next door to those experiencing famine.
Famine is now re-emerging as a threat.
The cause? War — and bad politics. That is what underlies the famines we are seeing in places like Syria, South Sudan and Yemen. It is one of the ironies of our modern world. Thanks to global food chains and international trade, we can transport produce across oceans in just a few days. But even in developed nations, the prospect of food shortages are perhaps not as far away as we might like to believe.
The international food chains that supply us with our favourite foods are precariously balanced. In Venezuela, a country blessed with rich oil reserves, a political crisis driven by rocketing inflation has led to shortages of food and medicine, forcing families to live off rotten meat and leading millions to leave the country all together. Meanwhile, disease, poor weather and rising prices have led to shortages of a number of popular crops in recent years.
Soaring rice prices led to panic buying in the Philippines and other Asian countries in , causing a supply crisis for this staple food. Bad weather in Europe in saw prices of many vegetables rise while there also were worldwide shortages of avocados after several countries were hit by poor harvests.
The fuel protests that hit the UK in , where farmers and hauliers blockaded oil refineries and fuel depots, led to supermarkets rationing food as they struggled to get deliveries to restock their shelves. Even the stockpiling of food by schools , care homes, hospitals and pessimistic shoppers in the UK ahead of Brexit show what effect even the mere rumour of food shortages can have.
It is only once starvation creeps into being a mass experience that it becomes a famine. But food insecurity is more common than many of us might think.