World War I officially ended recently with the final German reparation payment. The war left a legacy of widespread death and destruction, and it set in motion the chain of events leading to World War II. There is one legacy, though, of World War I that we do want to remain with us always—one of compassion.
American food aid saved millions of lives during and after the war, France being one of the countries that benefited from this generosity. Herbert Hoover wrote, “The exposure of the suffering of France at the Armistice deeply stirred the sympathy of the American people. At once there sprang into being a host of new voluntary charitable agencies…an epic of American compassion.”
American foreign policy is at its best when it looks overseas to stop hunger, malnutrition and suffering. This is a continuing epic of American compassion. This compassion is what we cannot lose today when once again food is at the top of our foreign policy agenda.
In Pakistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) recently warned that “a break in the food pipeline is expected from November for several commodities; and between November and December alone, a total of more than US $96 million is still needed to implement planned assistance.”
Millions of people in Pakistan are suffering from hunger as they are trying to recover from massive flooding. Before this tragedy many Pakistanis were in need of aid after being displaced by the conflict against the Taliban.
Afghanistan is also at risk because of low funding for WFP and the loss of supplies-in-transit from neighboring Pakistan. Sudan is another country where food is needed to reinforce the peace process.
Special emphasis is needed on child feeding in these crisis situations, as it was in the WWI era. Colonel A.J Carlson upon his visit to Austria in 1919 described a school feeding program:
“The meals served average about six hundred fifty (650) calories per day. Our own officers, as well as the Austrian officials, report a marked improvement already in the children as a result of the feeding….fully eighty (80) per cent of the children fed are distinctly under-nourished. and an unusually high percentage of the children are stunted in growth.”
Today, we also cannot neglect child feeding in our foreign policy. This is certainly an issue right now, with the Senate deciding on what to fund in the foreign policy budget. The Senate can give a much-needed funding increase to the McGovern-Dole program that funds school meals in developing countries.
Hunger anywhere cannot be acceptable. Malnutrition among children is appalling. This must be the attitude of our leaders today when looking at the massive global hunger crisis. Our response today will be tomorrow’s chapter in the epic of American compassion.