Hunger affects everyone. Without food and nutrition, the ability to concentrate is lost, we cannot function and our health deteriorates. If we do not gain access to food, we eventually die. Many of us don’t realise how fortunate we are to be able to eat once those pangs of hunger begin to set in. However, millions and millions across the globe are not so fortunate. They do not have access to food and therefore undergo slow, painful deaths.
Hunger is caused by various factors – natural disasters, harmful economic systems, poor agricultural practices are among them.
Other causes could be climate change as increasing drought, flooding and changing climatic patterns require a shift in crops and farming practices that might not be easily accomplished. Poverty and the unequal distribution of wealth are high on the list too.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations tells us that the critical threshold of 1 billion hungry people in the world was reached in part due to soaring food prices and the financial crisis. The world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, which is World Food Programme tells us there are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. It also informs that daily under-nourishment, a less visible form of hunger, affects many more people.
Although there have been reports of progress in halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger – a target of the first Millennium Development Goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 – there remains a long way to go with malnutrition on the rise.
The theme for this year’s World Food Day, observed Saturday, is United Against Hunger. Several activities were carried out worldwide to mark the occasion. Among them school projects, tree plantings, seed and seedling distributions, special lectures and media programmes.
Those who care are being encouraged to attach their names to the “1 billion Hungry” petition being circulated worldwide via hand and Internet, to put pressure on politicians to end hunger.
Activities in Antigua & Barbuda to mark the occasion will, in fact, last throughout the week with distributions of food hampers and World Food Day T-shirts, donations of agricultural produce, among others.
While it’s great that we’re going through the motions of celebrating this occasion, what exactly is being done of significance to help alleviate hunger both at the state level and at the personal level? Our concern here is food security and it’s been implied that Antigua & Barbuda is a major disaster away, from being a nation of hungry people.
Storms have wreaked havoc on our agricultural produce in the past couple of years causing millions of dollars in crop loss. However, we have been quite fortunate not to have encountered any disasters of great proportions causing mass destruction and loss of life. God forbid, if that were to happen and our current food supply were wiped out, would we have some stored up for that “rainy day?”
Such concern has been expressed several times by a senior agriculture officer and we wonder how much closer the country is to having adequate facilities for long-term storage of food.
Also, rising food prices are just as evident here as anywhere else and authorities have been preaching ad nauseum that producing one’s own is the way to go. How much closer is the country to lessening the food import bill?
These are just some of the questions that come to mind when we talk of eradicating hunger.
At the personal level, we can also make a difference. Rather than turning a deaf ear to the cries of hunger from another, we can make a contribution. We’re not suggesting a one-person food distribution effort but a donation to your local charity or soup kitchen.
It takes more than just talk to assist in the fight against hunger; it will take action. And if we are united in our worldwide plan to eradicate hunger, then together we will be able to effect change for the better.