Ten years ago, the UN started a campaign to halve world hunger by 2015. The assessment at this point is sadly showing little real progess except in percentage of world population. The real numbers have actually increased by 4 million a year. According to a Rueters report, the improvements in cutting world hunger are only due to population increases.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which hosted a 1996 World Food Summit where nations set the target, said there were still 854 million underfed people, and that one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa lived in chronic hunger.
That represents about three times the population of the United States.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said if the rate of decline seen since 1990 continued, the food summit target would not be achieved before 2150. And the most recent trend pointed to a rise in the number of hungry, he said.
“Far from decreasing, the number of hungry people in the world is currently increasing – at the rate of 4 million a year,”
In contrast, the 70’s the decrease in global hunger reached 37 million, followed by 100 million in the 80’s. The first half of the 90’s reduced another 26 million only to turn around with increases during the second half.
Not surprisingly, sub-Africa has and will continue to bear the brunt of this tragedy.
But stark differences in development in various regions mean the proportion of the populations of Africa and the Near East who go hungry will not be cut at the same rate and are set to miss the Millennium Development Goal.
By 2015, sub-Saharan Africa will contain 30 percent of the world’s hungry, up from 20 percent in 1990, the FAO said.
I remember all too well the decades of GOP arguments that America was spending too much on foreign aid, that it was not our responsibility to feed the world and increase our debt. Instead we supported an unhealthy food industry and have the highest rate of obesity in the world.
George Bush’s first act as president has never left my memory. He stopped financial aid to birth control and sex education programs around the world because they did not keep accounting measures that ensured the money was not going to abortions. Without birth control, both the birth rate and abortion rates increased dramatically in some countries.
Then “The Decider” determined that we should spend billions of dollars to forcibly bring freedom and democracy to another country. The long term costs will continue until the Iraq veterans die (a commitment I will vote to honor until my death), leaving us less money to use for foreign aid.
As Ike so eloquently said, for every bomb that is made, every war plane that is built and all the other expenses of war; roads, schools, hospitals, water supplies and agricultural development are abandoned or delayed. ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose’.
I know we love Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty or give me death.” Other people have different priorities. Food, then freedom would be one.