This is one of the worst things I've ever heard:


And the aid is not even safe once it has been distributed to families huddled in the makeshift camps popping up around the capital. Families at the large, government-run Badbado camp said they were often forced to hand back aid after journalists had taken photos of them with it.

Ali Said Nur said he received two sacks of maize twice, but each time was forced to give one to the camp leader.

"You don't have a choice. You have to simply give without an argument to be able to stay here," he said.

The aid is apparently being stolen and sold in markets.  


My understanding is that this is a not uncommon problem, and that to combat it, aid agencies at least sometimes turn to distributing food that is, well, pretty disgusting.  Not rotten, not bad for you--in fact, the stuff they distribute in North Korea is vitamin fortified and very nutritious.  But it doesn't taste good; it's essentially gruel on steroids.  No one would voluntarily eat it if they had any alternatives.  So there's not much resale value.

It's tragic that we have to give famine victims tasteless, horrible food when we could just as easily give them something they'd enjoy eating.  But in some places, that seems to be the only way to ensure that they actually get to eat it.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.