H. George Franks was a Dutch journalist with a mission. It was late April, 1945 and millions of people in his homeland were starving under Nazi occupation. General Eisenhower had set in motion plans to bring in food via air drops by British and American planes.
Henri Van Der Zee, the author of The Hunger Winter, wrote about how Franks went to Royal Air Force bases in England to tell crew members of the suffering in Holland. Franks even went on one of the first food drop missions over Holland.
Van Der Zee wrote, “It was a great moment for Franks when at a signal from the commander he pushed out the first parcels, which tumbled through the sky, ‘like confetti from a giant hand.’” Food by air, and later by truck, continued to stream into Holland to save millions of lives as World War II came to a close.
Today, over one billion people who are suffering from hunger need people like Franks to be their voice. Josette Sheeran, the director of the UN World Food Programme, recently held a conference in Washington with some of those voices, members of the media.
The press should tune in to this story, the biggest of our time. More people are suffering from hunger than at any point in history. The implications of this massive hunger can manifest itself, as Sheeran explained, in one of three ways. Hungry people will migrate, they will revolt, or they will die. These tragic events are often so far away from those who might alter the outcome. But the media can help keep hunger in view.
At the conference Sheeran discussed some of the crisis points, including Haiti and Somalia. Yet there are so many countries facing hunger that it is impossible to cover them all in one news conference.
Tamara Kummer of WFP told me last week, “Most of our operations are underfunded.” Pakistan, Sudan, and Yemen are some of the countries where WFP is facing severe funding shortfalls.
Recently, I published a number of articles on how insufficient funding has meant the suspension of WFP school feeding in Yemen since last June. A limited school feeding distribution is expected to take place in the coming days. This is good news, but dampened by the fact that it will likely be the only one for this year because no new funding is available. School feeding in Yemen is just getting one little gasp this month and then that’s it.
There should be intensive discussion on how to build universal school feeding in Yemen, as well as in other nations. Although these programs are the core ingredients of peace, you almost never hear about them in the media.
After her press conference, Sheeran spoke at Johns Hopkins University. She brought with her the red cup she uses to symbolize school feeding. She also referenced the history behind the idea of a cup of food for a child. After World War II, it was the children in Europe who needed that cup of food as starvation spread over the war-torn continent.
Josette Sheeran and the Red Cup that symbolizes the drive for achieving universal global school feeding for children. (File photo courtesy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies)
General Lucius Clay fought the battle to defeat hunger in Germany after World War II. He believed the media was instrumental in bringing home the story of the suffering in Germany. Reporters helped to build support for food programs like school feeding. General Clay thought that school feeding was one of the most important post-war actions undertaken in Germany, and necessary for a peaceful reconstruction.
Of course, today the media coverage does not come only from the traditional outlets. There are so many new sources of communication which can help shine the spotlight on global hunger.
Fighting hunger is essential for building peace and stability. A world without hunger would be far less of a breeding ground for chaos, extremism and terrorism. It would be a world with hope, education and progress. The difference between a child holding an empty or full cup of food can determine which of those two roads the world will travel.