Trick or Treat for Condoms

Famine Biafra Anwa, Biafra, Aug. 5, 1968

A line of starving African children in 1968. (Photo credit:

A half century ago I participated in “Trick or Treat for UNICEF”. Children across the country dressed up in their costumes on Halloween and went door to door collecting pennies for the starving children in Africa. At school we were shown horrific pictures of emaciated African children who looked much like us, except for distended bellies and the flies crawling across their faces. None of us had ever known hunger or want. We were all little middle class American children who had plenty to eat, clothes to wear and a secure home to live in. Even the poorest among us lived like kings compared to those pathetic kids in Africa. We were all eager to help. The situation seemed very simple to our childish minds. There are a bunch of starving kids. We have plenty of food. Let’s send them some of our food. Then they won’t be starving anymore.

So we all donned our Halloween costumes and got our little cardboard UNICEF boxes and went door to door and collected pennies. Some of us added pennies from our allowances and glowed with juvenile satisfaction that we had indeed saved these little friends in a land far away. They would have plenty to eat thanks to our good works.

Famine family africa

A half century later and the picture hasn't changed. Photo Credit:

Fast forward a half century and I am watching the evening news. I flash back to my naïve days of thinking the world is a simple place. I remember my little UNICEF box and the weight of the pennies. On my TV screen is still the same emaciated little African kid I saw 50 years before. He’s still starving and the great-great grandchildren of the flies still crawl across his face.

Let’s skip the statistics about how many kids have died or will die in Africa. Suffice it to say it’s a butt-load. It numbers in the millions. Any number over “One” starving kid is too many. Since my penny collecting days, borders have changed, African countries have come and gone and dictators have ruled and died. The only constant has been the birth of millions of kids into starvation.

As the story of the ubiquitous African famine has played out on the 24-hour news another realization has slowly surfaced. It seems that in every picture there is a mother who has trekked across hundreds of miles to get to a refugee camp in the hope of feeding her seven kids. Now this woman wasn’t living a happy and carefree life last week. She has been living in a pervasive environment of want, most, if not all, of her life. Her parents lived it. Her grandparents lived it.

Here’s the part where you cringe and call me a uncaring misogynistic racist.

Why are these women always dragging seven starving kids behind them? What cultural or religious drive spurs them on to have child after child that they cannot care for? I’m sorry, but I don’t have the answer. Do you?

First world governments and aid organizations pour millions of dollars and tons of food and resources into these countries and nothing changes. The governments are corrupt and much of the aid never makes it to those in need. How about we send Planned Parenthood over there. I realize that it so very politically incorrect to tell people how to handle their reproductive rights. (Except in the USA where it seems to be every crackpot’s business.)

At this point if there is still a female reading this through a red haze of fury, I would like to point out why I say “these women” are dragging seven kids behind them. I point to the women as the responsible party because men are idiots. African men are idiots. American men are idiots. I think that’s one universal truth we can all agree upon. Idiot is an equal opportunity trait in men. If men were responsible for all birth control in America, we would be knee-deep in rugrats. Excuse my vulgarity, but men think with their dicks. That’s why we call them, “dickheads”.

US policies under the Bush administration actually made family planning even more difficult in Africa and other countries.

“Under President George W. Bush, the United States withdrew from its decades-long role as a global leader in supporting family planning, driven by a conservative ideology that favored abstinence and shied away from providing contraceptive devices in developing countries, even to married women.

Read more:

The Gag Rule prohibited organizations in receipt of US funds from using their own money to provide abortion information, services and care, or even discussing abortion or criticizing unsafe abortion.

We are delighted that President Obama has rescinded it.  It even prevented organizations from working on these issues at the request of their own governments.

Today, (June/2011) over 3 billion people – nearly half of the world’s population – are under the age of 25. Almost 90% of these young people live in developing countries. There are approximately 157 million young adults aged 15 to 24 in sub-Saharan Africa; this number is expected to increase to 198 million by 2015.

As this large population segment enters the reproductive years new challenges emerge; adolescent HIV seroprevalence rates are rising, complications related to female genital mutilation continue to challenge the health of an increasing number of young women, and death as a result of unsafe abortion and unplanned pregnancy are on the increase.

The sexual and reproductive health rights of this critical group are being eroded by conservative evangelical civil society. And the traditional societal mechanisms that used to offer these young people the guidance and protections they require are not functioning.

So this Halloween I’m proposing we go door to door and collect for Africa. Not candy or money, but condoms. Condoms for Africa!      I can almost see the T-shirt now.


16 comments on “Trick or Treat for Condoms

  1. Alan, i agree about the woman having to many kids, the men will NOT use condoms etc.
    The reason they have so many kids is, they do not expect half of them to live to become an adult.
    The people at the top take enough food for themselves and the army etc, then whats left goes to the starving.

  2. Alan, here’s to more men wearing their thinking caps!

    Do you remember the disruption to air travel caused by the Iceland volcano ash? Large amounts of fresh produce destined for UK supermarkets had to be trashed. The cost to growers and suppliers was huge. This food was grown in Kenya! The economics of geo-politics!

    • Patti, You’re so right. Sometimes it’s hard to realize how the actions a world away can affect us here and the same for our actions. The recent problems with the Greek economy are a good example.

  3. This is why access to “education” is so important. What happens thousands of miles affect “all of us.” We are all connected even if we don’t see it, even if we don’t feel it … we must understand it.

  4. Alan, it’s actually a different kind of vicious circle. Years ago, I read about research on the poor in India (I’m sorry but I forget the source). The result/ argument was surprising – people who go to bed hungry have sex much more frequently than those who go to bed with a full stomach.

    Probably because being hungry keeps you awake and having sex is about the most obvious thing to do in that situation.

  5. That was kick ass. Bad things happen in life and eventually people need to take responsibility for contributing to those bad things. Fewer children means more food and fewer dying children. Even if they expect half their children to die before adulthood, why bring them into the world at all? Seems selfish to have children knowing full well they most likely Will die. That’s just sad.

  6. Absolutely off the mainstream and admirably to the point Alan. I was right there nodding my head in agreement when you spoke of the horrors of women dragging numerous children around; and I damn near did a jig when you called out the dickheads of the world! It’s like the “new” millenium never even happened. Women and children in our own backyards and across the pond are still at the mercy of cultures that don’t respect them at all – cultures that celebrate mutilating a little girl’s body so that womanhood means numerous children, exposure to HIV from their cheating husbands and nations that believe it’s a woman’s destiny to live in that manner – and be happy doing it.
    Thank you Alan for making this a part of mainstream conversation.

    Amen to trick or treating for condoms and I’d like to personally jump in with any movement that will once and for all end Female Genital Mutilation.


  7. Whilst one does not wish to see children, or for that matter adults, suffer from malnutrition or disease it does frustrate me when they show the starving children solely with their mothers. One never sees the fathers – why is that? TV documentaries should question the fathers and mothers why they insist on raising children if they cannot ensure their well being. If adults cannot control their urge to reproduce without using condoms then this is not the world’s problem but a cultural one for Africans. The world is fast becoming overpopulated and I do feel that families should be licensed to breed – two children only. I suggest this goes for most countries of the World. Of course the rulers of some of these countries have a lot to answer for!!

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