This Sunday British Prime Minister David Cameron is hosting a summit on the global hunger crisis. This meeting, coming at the close of the London Olympics, hopes to draw the media spotlight toward the nearly one billion people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
For humanity, the most important Olympic event is this hunger summit. Ertharin Cousin, the director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), says, “The Global Hunger Event comes at a time when the eyes of the world are focused on the pinnacle of human physical achievement at the London Olympics. For far too many children, a lack of food and nutrition means that, sadly, they will never have a chance to compete in life.”
New York Marathon champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist Paul Tergat says: “As sports men and women, it is important for all of us to use our privileged positions to raise awareness about the challenges that some of the less fortunate among us have to face.” (World Food Programme photo)
Right now hunger is striking conflict-ravaged South Sudan and Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Haiti. In the Sahel region of Africa humanitarian aid is needed to prevent famine after a severe drought. Over in East Africa there is still tremendous hunger one year after drought struck the region leading to famine in Somalia.
Drought in the U.S. this summer may cause higher food prices for an extended period of time, making the global hunger fight that much harder to carry out. Aid agencies like WFP depend on voluntary donations from the government and the public to fight hunger.
But will governments be able to provide funds during tough economic times and needs at home? It’s important to remember that food aid is a relatively inexpensive foreign policy expense when you compare it to programs like nuclear weapons spending. Targeting food aid for budget cuts is barking up the wrong tree.
The last time London hosted the Olympics was in 1948, the same year the Marshall Plan started to rebuild Europe after World War II. Following the conflict, the world was on the brink of the most massive famine in history. Former U.S. president Herbert Hoover was appointed as food ambassador in 1946 to coordinate a global response to save millions of lives. UNICEF was created during this time period to meet the needs of children who suffered more than anyone from the war. In 1947 Austria, Italy, and France received pre-Marshall Plan aid so they could have enough food for the winter before the recovery program started.
The food aid provided to Europe offered the foundation for reconstruction. As former Army Chief and Secretary of State George Marshall said, ” Food is the very basis of all reconstruction. Hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of peace.”
This Sunday in London the starving peoples of the world are hoping the Olympic spirit can come to their aid via the hunger summit.