Hunger

“The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation.”   – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Hunger is the desperate need for food, not the simple desire to eat. When the average North American wakes up every morning, he or she is thinking of the many options available which can satisfy that breakfast craving. When four-year-old Sarah* lies sleepless at night, she does not think; she can only feel the jolting pain that stabs at every point of her fragile, shivering body. Her lips are chapped; her belly is bulging out; her ribs stick out like contour lines across her already depleted body. Sarah is not merely hungry. Under the cool moonlit sky Sarah is suffering from starvation.

Starvation is an extreme form of malnutrition. The lack of proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed to support basic functions carried out by the body and organs causes this condition. Sufferers display dramatic loss of fat and muscle mass as the body breaks down these tissues for energy. Prolonged effects cause tissues of vital organs to deteriorate, and permanent damage to these organs ultimately leads to death. The body’s immune system is also affected. It tends to shut down and leave the body unprotected against many deadly diseases. Either way, if left neglected, starvation is a slow, tortured path to death.

Sarah is not alone. There are 854 million people across the world who share Sarah’s pain. Many of them are children and are from developing countries.

A starved child faces poor intellectual development and stunted growth. This can lead to injured cognitive abilities and physical disabilities, not to mention the emotional scars imprinted in the minds of the children. However, many of them do not survive long enough to grow up.

Every 5 seconds, one of Sarah’s brothers or sisters dies. That is, 16,000 children die everyday from hunger-related causes.

Yet there are more than 1 billion people that are overweight globally.

Why are there so many people starving while even more are overweight? Hunger is common in many developing countries under extreme poverty or famine. Poverty is a condition in which a community is deprived of the essentials for a minimum standard of well-being and life. Its worst case results in famine, a social and economic crisis that is commonly accompanied by widespread malnutrition and starvation. However, there is enough food to feed everyone in the world. The problem is caused by food distribution and external trade policies set by the governments of developing countries. The obvious way to solve hunger is to provide an adequate amount of food to those in desperate need. It would cost a lot for one person to provide that level of assistance, but not if it is made possible through the contributions of many.

How much is life worth? Anyone who doesn’t have to worry about survival would not hesitate to say that life is priceless. They are not wrong. Life is the essence of existence. For this reason all measures must be taken to preserve it. In developing countries, where clean water and food can prevent the malnourished from dying, a few dollars may be all that is needed to preserve a life. How much is life worth? Perhaps the price of life is not as important compared to the sum of all the tiny efforts put in to preserve a life. Choices made by one individual can make a difference in the lives of others.

People like Sarah need immediate help. A war cannot be fought alone.

*Name given for illustrative purposes.

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