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Monday, December 19, 2011

Dying for Christmas

According to the experts and politicos in public health nutrition, the greatest food-related condition on the planet is obesity.  That is not so. The fat and overweight all over the world will enjoy hearty feasts this Christmas or at their equivalent major holiday. It is hunger that is the greatest food-related condition facing mankind. One billion of the globe’s citizens will go to bed hungry on Christmas night, as they do every night. That is one in 6 of our fellow humans.  They live mostly in South Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2050, over 95% of the growth in the global population to 9 billion will be in these two regions. So too will be the worst effects of climate change in reducing agricultural output. Aside from the de-humanizing effect of hunger, there follows in its food steps a whole slew of diseases, mostly infectious diseases, caused by a greatly impaired immune system.  The consequent daily death rate from hunger is equivalent to 30 fully laden jumbo jets crashing each and every day with all lives on board lost. Never forget that statistic.

The hungry are not forgotten of course. They are constantly in our thoughts and most importantly in the thoughts of our political leaders and our major global agencies. They have been in their thoughts for the last 50 years as the following quotes show:

We have the ability, we have the means, and we have the capacity to eliminate hunger from the face of the earth. We need only the will.
President John F. Kennedy, 1963

Within one decade no child will go to bed hungry, no family will fear for its next day’s bread, and no human being’s future and capacities will be stunted by malnutrition. Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from malnutrition and hunger
World Food Conference, Rome, 1974

As a basis for the Plan of Action for Nutrition . . . we pledge to make all efforts to eliminate before the end of this decade: famine and famine-related deaths; starvation and nutritional deficiency diseases in communities affected by natural and man-made disasters; iodine and vitamin A deficiencies.
World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition, Rome, December 1992

The Rome Declaration calls upon us to reduce by half the number of chronically undernourished people on the Earth by the year 2015 . . . If each of us gives his or her best I believe that we can meet and even exceed the target we have set for ourselves.
World Food Summit 1996

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Target 2. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
 UN Millennium Development Goals 2002

We have seen in the present crisis among the states of the euro zone a generally selfish attitude of individual member states. On a global basis, a similarly selfish attitude has impeded progress with regard to climate change. In each case, the individual member states have a strategic interest, which is influenced by its business community and by many non-governmental organisations.  What hope has hunger got? The various quotations above show that we are kidding ourselves and paying lip service to the problem. In his book ‘Common wealth: Economics of a crowded planet’ the distinguished leader in development studies Jeffrey Sachs points out the need for a global solution to the problem. But how can we persuade the business and NGO communities in Ireland and elsewhere that global hunger is an issue of major importance and of sufficient importance to merit significantly more investment than we give at present? “We are in a recession” might be the general response. For the hungry, there is no recession since you can only recess from what has been progressed and, in their case, there has been no progression. Africa can help itself but not without our help. So, right now, take out the credit card and in multiples of 6 make a donation now to your favourite aid agency. If you don’t know of one immediately, try my favourite:

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