The global hunger crisis afflicting nearly one billion people will be the focus of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Rome this week. Clinton will be speaking at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters on Friday.
Clinton’s address takes on incredible meaning at a time when hunger and insecurity are threatening hopes of peace throughout the globe.
Afghanistan comes to mind, front and center. Save the Children released a report this week in which Afghanistan was rated the worst country to be a mother. Nutrition and health care for mothers and children are tops on the list for what this country needs.
U.S. Army Col. John Agoglia, who recently retired from leading counterinsurgency training in Afghanistan, says: “When communities have little hope for the future, they have little hope for peace…When we brought in medicines and some basic food and health care for those village women, we saw an immediate effect.”
As George Marshall once said, “Food is the very basis of all reconstruction [and] hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of peace.” This is the idea going forward in Afghanistan as well as other nations. There is no other way that we will succeed.
Clinton’s task on Friday will be refocusing the globe on fighting hunger in Afghanistan, particularly after the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported a $257 million shortfall in funding for its 2011 operation. There are also no universal feeding programs in place for infants and schoolchildren within the country.
Fighting hunger goes beyond Afghanistan, both near and far. Pakistan has massive food needs in the aftermath of flooding. In Yemen, a country high on the list of U.S. national security priorities, high food prices put nutrition out of reach for many families. Both education and development suffer as a result.
Once again, the World Food Programme faces budget shortfalls in a country with high malnutrition rates. No universal feeding programs are in place in Yemen either for infants or schoolchildren. In fact, a Food for Education program was cut last year because of low funding. This program allowed over 115,000 schoolgirls to get an education, and the rations they brought home in total fed over 800,000 people.
Yemen is now undergoing tremendous political instability. Food insecurity can make matters much worse in that country if we do not act.
The U.S. and international community need to reinforce the food for peace movement in these and other countries. In addition, following the Feed the Future recipe, the plan is to make these countries self- sufficient in food production. This will be a crucial step, but it also has to be coupled with universal child feeding programs so that more generations are not lost to hunger and lack of education.
It’s a tall order facing Clinton, who has tried in the past to rally support for enhancing food security globally. There is a growing realization that not enough emphasis has been placed on hunger- and poverty-fighting programs. Yet these are the keys to peace.
In fact, the Save the Children report revealed, “The United States spent about $667 billion on defense last year, but only $17 billion on humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance.”