With winter approaching, millions of children around the world are desperately in need of food that will save them from damaging malnutrition or even death.
Josette Sheeran of the World Food Programme (WFP) said last year, “We now know that the effects of under-nutrition are irreversible if a child under two years-old does not receive enough nutritious food. This makes it nearly criminal for the entire world not to act together to counter it.”
Yet the response from the international community is never enough to meet the great challenge of child hunger. The UN World Food Programme, UNICEF and other aid agencies are short on funding for their hunger relief operations.
If we do not act, millions of children will pay the price in flood-ravaged Pakistan, earthquake-recovering Haiti, war-torn Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and many other struggling countries. We saw Yemen in the news recently regarding Al Qaeda. But it is the devastating child malnutrition in that impoverished country that should also be given the focus.
The struggle for peace around the globe is clearly linked to food. As George Marshall said after World War II, “Hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of peace.” It all starts with food: the basis for each society.
What steps should be taken to alleviate the hunger? Acquire the necessary funding to eliminate the shortages and get food delivered to the hungry in these countries. Once interim aid is established to bring a level of stability, you have to secure some long-term solutions in the area of local agricultural production, food delivery systems and social safety nets. Also, build up food reserves to protect against future shocks.
Each country needs universal systems of infant feeding, as well as school feeding. With each one, you can gradually build in local food production to sustain the programs over time. The U.S. can provide international leadership with a food ambassador in the White House who can coordinate not just the U.S. response, but also international cooperation which is a necessity. Communication can solve many problems and that is what a food ambassador would be working at constantly.
It’s time to take action. If you do not relieve hunger in these countries, you damage a generation of children, and make recovery from conflict or disaster impossible. In other words, you can never get ahead of the crisis. It will go on and on year after year. Tragically, that is what we see.