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25,000 Die from Hunger Every Day

Imagine living off little or no food, day after day. In the Sudan there are at least several million people at risk for hunger after fighting in that country between rebels and the government.

But Sudan is not alone. Hunger claims 25,000 lives every day across the globe. The war against hunger needs to escalate. The United States must lead the international community in this fight.

The fight against hunger is crucial to the United States as it actively promotes freedom and democracy worldwide. Freedom is the right to sustenance. It was President Roosevelt who labeled one of the four essential freedoms as the “Freedom from want.” The struggle for freedom worldwide begins with the fight against hunger.

The international community needs to increase funding to the United Nations World Food Programme, the organization at the front line of feeding the hungry. It was failure to fund the World Food Programme that led to a tragic cut in food rations for the war refugees in the Sudan during May. Today, it is feared that food shortages in the Sudan will jeopardize a recent peace agreement that ended fighting between rebels and the government.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo hunger is also a threat to a nation trying to recover from years of civil war. According to the World Food Programme “humanitarian assistance is essential to reinforce the peace process” in the Congo where democratic elections are scheduled for later this year.

Afghanistan is another new democracy struggling to survive. Droughts and fighting between the Taliban and the coalition are a constant risk to that impoverished nation’s food supply. Can we be certain that enough funding will be available to meet emergency food requirements in Afghanistan? Hunger and poverty in Afghanistan will harm a country that is vital to the war on terrorism.

In Kenya millions more are at risk of starvation from a major drought. The list of nations suffering from hunger goes on and on. The World Food Programme states that 800 million people suffer from hunger. The international community has to properly fund these humanitarian crises around the globe.

Back in the 1960 it was President Eisenhower who called for international cooperation in fighting hunger. When President Kennedy took office he expanded the U.S. Food for Peace program started under President Eisenhower. Food for Peace sent U.S. surplus food overseas to needy countries. Kennedy wanted to make an international version of Food for Peace that all able countries could contribute to. Kennedy stated that “International cooperation, international organization, and international action are indispensable” in the fight against hunger. Other nations followed the United States lead in funding and developing what would become the United Nations World Food Programme, the largest food aid organization in the world. The U.S. Food for Peace program is a major donor to the World Food Programme.

United States leadership is again needed to rally the world in increasing funding for the World Food Programme to avoid tragedies such as the cutting of rations in the Sudan. Timely funding to the World Food Programme is crucial because it takes several months for donations to find their way through bureaucracy and shipping before translating into a meal. The resource pipeline of food aid must be kept flowing.

 Road being constructed in Southern Sudan (Courtesy of WFP/photo by Norken Ltd.)Increased donations will also help build infrastructure in underprivileged countries. In the Sudan, the World Food Programme is helping construct roads for a faster movement of supplies. Other aid programs improve food security and storage to preserve stock.

Efforts to eradicate disease are also bolstered by increased food supplies. A case in point is the AIDS virus which is ravaging areas where hunger exists. James Morris, director of the World Food Programme, states, “Without a healthy diet, their fight to survive this plague is being fought with one hand tied behind their backs.”

Hunger is the most potent enemy for the international community to overcome. It is an enemy that is unrelenting. Disasters, both natural and manmade, are constantly reappearing around the world creating new humanitarian nightmares. It is clear that more resources are needed to meet the massive challenge of fighting hunger. For the United States, leading an escalated assault on hunger will save millions of lives and help fulfill everyone’s right to “freedom from want.”