No Free Lunch
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Angolans traditionally offer meals of cornmeal or cassava porridge and beans with palm oil in honor of a recently departed loved one. Now hunger and high unemployment have led desperate Angolans to hang around cemeteries and then follow the families of the deceased back to the venues where the mourners are given this free fare.
These reception crashers are known as “death hunters.”
“Every month, two or three times I go there to wait for a funeral so that I can feed myself,” João Baptista Kifuta, 23, a death hunter, said in an interview with Africanews.
Hunger due to extreme droughts, locust infestation and skyrocketing food prices have compelled thousands of Angolans to walk miles through rugged terrain in search of better opportunities in neighboring Namibia, the Guardian reported in a stunning photo essay. People in the photos were eating grass to stave off hunger pains, the photographer wrote. They were among 1.3 million in the region who faced starvation, according to ReliefWeb.
The war in Ukraine is now expected to make things much worse if that is even possible. As the war has dragged on, wheat production in Eastern Europe has stalled and prices have increased, the UN-sponsored magazine Africa Renewal noted. That spells disaster for poor countries that are dependent on wheat imports, especially after the troubles and economic contraction of the coronavirus pandemic.
Incredibly, President João Lourenço has denied that hunger is a major problem. Observers believe he is nervous about upcoming elections in August, African Arguments said. Father Jacinto Pio Wacussanga, a Catholic priest who has been organizing local farmers to make their crops more resilient to climate change-induced droughts, reflected that view when he told the Catholic News Service that he thought Lourenço was putting his head in the sand by ignoring the real suffering of the people.
Lourenço has pledged to make Angola more business-friendly, the Africa Report recounted. He made the same pledge in 2017 but now says he needs more time to implement his reforms. He has succeeded in boosting natural gas exports as prices have risen due to the Ukraine war, for example, Bloomberg added.
The president has also ramped up the security state. The Angolan government, for example, still controls the country’s media, Reporters Without Borders wrote. Independent and critical reporting is very hard to come by. Police have cracked down on protesters peacefully calling for free and fair elections, Human Rights Watch noted.
The death hunters, meanwhile, ply their trade.