Speeding Food Relief in International Disasters: The Potential Contribution of Technology

  • Mitchel B. Wallerstein


We return to the problem of food, and again to the tension between the mentalities of those who espouse relief and those who advocate development. The immunity of the major grain shippers from public scrutiny is only equalled by the splendid obscurity that the oil companies enjoyed before the 1973 crisis. For this reason among others, Mitchel Wallerstein concludes that the cost of setting up a food surveillance system to parallel the “safety net” created for oil after the 1973 energy crisis would be prohibitive. Even for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) — the largest and best-equipped relief organization in history — food, with its relatively inelastic demand curve, largely escaped international controls. Thus, Wallerstein concludes as does Michael Doyle, that ultimately the only satisfactory solution to the problem of providing food in disaster-prone countries is local reserves, preferably supplied by local agriculture, though an intermediate stage may well be required during which governments of major grain-producing states and regions would set aside food for international reserves.


Disaster Relief Food Assistance Coast Guard Bulk Carrier World Food Programme 
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  1. 4.
    See, for example, UN General Assembly, Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, “The Potential Applications of Satellite Remote Sensing Technology to Natural Disasters ” (A/ AC.1054.C1/L. 92, 9 February 1977 ).Google Scholar
  2. 10.
    This data is adapted from Robert P. Thompson, A Study of Maritime Satellite Service Requirements, Frequency Planning, Modulation and Interference Analysis, Volume I, (Report prepared for the U.S. Coast Guard, No. DOT—CG-00505A(1), 15 September 1970 ), p. 24.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Cited in Charles Dorian, “Application of Space Communications to the Maritime Mobile Service,” Telecommunications Journal, vol. 38 (May 1971), p. 340.Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    Cited in: John Freivalds, Grain Trade: The Key to World Power and Human Survival ( New York: Stein and Day, 1976 ), p. 97.Google Scholar
  5. 32.
    See, in this regard, E. R. Panser, et al., Fish Protein Concentrate: Panacea for Protein Malnutrition? (Cambridge: The M.I.T. Press, 1978).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© UNA-USA 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mitchel B. Wallerstein
    • 1
  1. 1.International Nutrition ProgramMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyUSA

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