The global hunger crisis is raging — from earthquake-devastated Haiti to war-torn Yemen, Sudan, and other countries. For the U.S. and the international community, fighting hunger is unmistakably a top priority.
Here is the latest on the emergency in Haiti, where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is increasing its food deliveries. On Saturday, WFP brought food to Leogane, a town which was close to the earthquake's epicenter. This was the first food delivery to this town which is believed to have lost tens of thousands of people, and has had nearly all its buildings destroyed. On Sunday, WFP reached 30,000 people with its high-energy biscuits and other ready-to-eat foods. On Monday, WFP planned to reach 95,000 people. In the past week there have been 250,000 daily food rations distributed in the Port-au-Prince area by WFP along with the U.S. military.
As there are no cooking facilities available, high energy biscuits are the best product to distribute as they don’t need preparation. (WFP/Alejandro Lopez Chicheri)
These food deliveries are accompanied by UN peacekeepers including Brazilian, Sri Lankan, and Jordanian battalions. Aftershocks from the earthquake have damaged WFP warehouses in Haiti. New facilities to store the food have to be found and WFP teams are working quickly on this. In Port-au-Prince food kitchens are being established to provide prepared foods to the hungry.
More food is on the way to Haiti including 16 million ready-to-eat meals from the United States, Italy, and Denmark. This week WFP plans on distributing the equivalent of 10 million ready-to-eat meals.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with support from FEMA, is funding a contribution of approximately 1.5 million more meals to WFP.
In another part of the globe, war-torn countries also face large-scale hunger. In Northern Yemen the World Food Programme is providing rations to those displaced by fighting between government forces and Al-Houthi rebels. Jennifer Mizgata of WFP reported earlier this month that "Thousands of people are still fleeing the conflict, which broke out last August when the government launched a new offensive. More are arriving at the camps every day."
Children living in a camp for those displaced by conflict in Yemen (WFP/JenniferMizgata)
And hunger is not only confined to the Northern part of the country. Nearly half the population has trouble gaining access to food on a daily basis. The countrywide school feeding program has been suspended since last year due to lack of funding. This program is critical for helping the impoverished families in Yemen.
In Southern Sudan hunger is on the rise at a time when that region will soon be deciding whether it is to become independent. But Southern Sudan is also facing drought which has damaged food supplies. Farmers have also been displaced by fighting in the region. The World Food Programme plans to feed 11 million people throughout all of Sudan this year, which includes the Darfur region.
These are just some of the countries at the heart of the global hunger crisis. There are many others like Afghanistan, Nepal, and Iraq. Worldwide over 1 billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
The world has overcome difficult crises before, such as the hunger that threatened so many countries after World War II. President Truman's food ambassador, Herbert Hoover, spoke of the powerful force of hunger in 1946.
In October, 1947 Secretary of State George C. Marshall called for all Americans to help the hungry in Europe. Marshall said:
During this critical period in world affairs, food is a vital factor in our foreign policy. And the attitude of Americans toward food can make or break our efforts to achieve peace and security throughout the world…every man, woman and child in this country will exert a direct personal influence on the course of international affairs…our foreign policy has entered the American home and taken a seat at the family table.
Today, everyone can do their part to help feed and relieve suffering around the world, donations to aid agencies being the best way. Josette Sheeran said today that "It is vital that the response from the global humanitarian community matches the immense needs of the people of Haiti." For Haiti, in particular, it can make a difference in saving lives now and in the long-term rebuilding of their country, in which food will serve as a key foundation.
But besides donations, the public can also keep world leaders focused on hunger and poverty in Haiti and other countries. Not just for the next month but beyond.
Video footage of food deliveries in Haiti is available at the World Food Programme website.