From 1932 to 1933 a genocide struck Ukraine under the Soviet Union. This genocide was eventually named Holodomor, meaning “death by hunger”. This was a man-made famine that killed millions of individuals. A famine in itself is extremely destructive and can nearly wipe out a nation, in this case it took the lives of about ten million individuals. This famine was buried through propaganda for nearly 50 years, it was so vastly covered up that this mass atrocity was unknown by some for decades. There was outright denial of these horrors, disinformation regarding the causes of the famine, revocation of visas for journalists to publish if their writings wronged the regime and the Soviets even went to the extreme of creating Potemkine villages which were model villages created in order to dupe tourists into thinking that everything in Ukraine was fine. Canada was the first country to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide in 2008, 72 years after the atrocities ended.
An independent expert from the United Nations claims that famines should be prosecuted. In fact, this could ensure that countries that attempt to commit such acts as the ones that built the Holodomor would be stopped, thus putting an end to man-made famines used as war weapons that gravely violate basic human rights. According to the expert, these sorts of events should be considered war crimes or crimes against humanity. Today there are 795 million people that are undernourished, that’s one in nine people. Additionally, there are more victims of hunger and disease than there are that die in direct combat. Ceasing famine before it begins might just be one way to ensure the respect of the third article of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR) which states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
There are 45 countries that are in dire need of aid regarding the lack of food that is accessible and Somalia is an example of the repercussions of these sorts of conditions. Over half of the country’s population, over six million people, require this aid. The United Nations Secretary-General, Anonio Guterres, even claimed that the population of Somalia was “neglected” world-wide.
The UDHR also insists, according its 22nd article, that “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation (…).” It is therefore possible that this co-operation to tackle famine is a step in the right direction towards protecting the lives of these victims and the lives of potential future victims by breaking this vicious cycle of famines.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.