“There isn’t anything to eat.”
“I think I’m going to die.”
These are actual quotes from my children. My children who with only a few very short exceptions have never known actual hunger. What they actually mean when they say those things is “I’m bored,” “I don’t like what you made for my lunch,” “There isn’t anything in the house I want to eat,” “I threw my lunch away and you aren’t making dinner fast enough.”
In the experience of my children, the most hungry they have been is the regular Saturday morning when my wife and I decide to sleep in and the children are too lazy to make toast or pour cereal. Even during our hardest times, at the end of the month when the checking account and the cupboards were both bare, it wasn’t the children who went without food.
“If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger.” – Buzz Aldrin,
Today is World Food Day, originally established to celebrate the founding of the United Nations’ World Food Programme, an organization which has as its mission the eradication of hunger and malnutrition, with the ultimate goal in mind of eliminating the need for food aid itself.
And there is a lot to celebrate. The WFP and organizations like it in the world have made a lot of significant progress. Worldhunger.org reports that during the period between 1990-92 and 2012-14 we “saw a 42 percent reduction in the prevalence of undernourished people” in developing regions.
And yet, in spite of the successes, there is still so much more work to do. My children have never known real hunger, but there are many, including children, even in the developed world who are on a first name basis. I know of, and know personally children in my own community who, if they did not have access to free breakfast and lunch at school, would not have anything to eat. Have you ever considered what these children eat when they go home, or on the weekends and during the summer when there is no school? Some of children I know of, even when they do have food, are living on a diet made up almost entirely of instant ramen.
And although there are still problems in the developed world, things are still worse in the developing regions. The World Food Programme reports some sad statistics:
- Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth.
- 12.9 percent of the population in developing countries is undernourished.
- One person in four in Sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished.
- Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.
- One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight.
- One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
- 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
Thankfully there are things that can be done about it – and it isn’t just food aid, although that is important too. WFP suggests that “if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.” I remember learning something growing up about two birds and a single stone. A boost for gender equality and a punch in the eye for world hunger? Yes please.
“The best way to perpetuate poverty is by spending on arms and military, and the best way to fight terrorism is by fighting the basic needs of humanity, because hunger and poverty perpetuate crime.” – Oscar Arias
In addition, WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children in the developing world. $3.2 billion to send every kid in developing countries to school with a full belly. That’s a lot, right? Consider that the B2 bomber costs somewhere around $2 billion. Each. The new Long Range Strike Bomber program? Expected to cost around $55 billion. We aren’t even talking about a a clash between humanitarianism and national defense. We can have our birds of death out of a horror story and feed the hungry as well*. Just buy two less bombers.
But it’s a hard, intractable, complicated issue, right? I refer you to the Buzz Aldrin quote above. If we can send human beings into the vacuum, radiation, and all-around danger of space, land them on a distant piece of spinning rock, and then bring them back entirely alive, what is it in the logistics of growing and transporting that is so difficult to feed to world’s hungry?
These are not problems that can’t be solved. They are problems that we don’t want to solve because they are inconvenient and we are scared of going hungry ourselves if we help.
There are things we can do. But’s it’s like anything else – if you never start, you never accomplish. Here are a couple of resources to get you started.
“Our foremost priority is the removal of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, disease and illiteracy. All social welfare programmes must be implemented efficiently. Agencies involved in the delivery of services should have a strong sense of duty and work in a transparent, corruption-free, time-bound and accountable manner.” – Pratibha Patil
*You may have noticed a slight anti-war leaning. You weren’t mistaken. I agree wholeheartedly with the Oscar Arias quote above.