(This article is part of an ongoing series showing adult obsession in waging “War Against Children” by Fr. Jerry Novotny, OMI.)
While coping with the pandemic, we have an opportunity to rediscover basic values of humanity and the human bonds that connect us. We have it in our hands to learn things about our world and about ourselves. One lesson we learn is how important hunger is. In our world today, about 700 million people go to bed hungry every night. Yes, 700 million human beings.
How many children worldwide suffer from hunger? An estimated 18 million children worldwide are facing extreme food shortages and of this number more than 5.7 million children under five are on the brink of starvation. How many kids die from hunger? Every year, more than 3 million children die from hunger-related causes. A child dies from hunger every 10 seconds. According to “Save the Children” group, the world is facing the biggest global hunger crisis of the 21st century.
We find the hungriest people in the world across countries like Syria, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. Across these countries, children are facing severe hunger.
*** Syria: more than 12.4 million live in extreme levels of poverty and hunger. The hunger levels rose by 56 percent between 2019 and the end of 2020.
*** Yemen: more than 16 million people – over half of the country’s population wake up hungry every day.
*** Democratic Republic of Congo: has the world’s worst hunger crisis. The number of severely hungry people skyrocketed from 13 million in 2019 to over 27 million today. One in three Congolese – a record high – are now hungry.
*** In Afghanistan, almost one in two children under five (3.1 million children) are facing acute malnutrition and need life-saving treatment.
In countries where hunger crisis exists, children are always the most vulnerable. We know that without adequate nutritious food, children cannot develop as they should and are at a high risk of acute malnutrition. This can lead to death or irreversible damage to a child’s physical and cognitive development. The big question is “Hunger Crisis –> Why does it exist?” You may think one reason for this is that there is not enough food to go around.
Recently, I ran across the following statistics: A recent study by the German government concluded that it would cost 330 billion dollars to end hunger in the world by 2030. That is, roughly, 37 billion dollars per year. By contrast for example, take the United States, people spend 659 billion dollars dining out in restaurants. They spend over 253 billion dollars a year on alcoho. And they spend about 87 billion dollars on food for their pets – – which would be enough to end world hunger by 2025.
What can we conclude from this? Answer: SHORTAGE OF FOOD DOES NOT EXIST. There is plenty of food to go around. For some reason, it is not reaching the people who need it most. One basic reason for this hunger crisis is that we have the attitude that feeding the hungry is someone else’s problem, not mine. This is what I call APATHY.
If we feel this way, we have not listened carefully to Jesus in Sacred Scripture. What does He say about having such an attitude? In John 6:1-5, Jesus and His disciples are faced with a hungry crowd of over five thousand people. Jesus has spent the day feeding their souls and He refuses to send them away without feeding their bodies. And so, He says to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” In Saint Mark’s version of the story, Jesus puts it even more plainly. “YOU give them something to eat.” The disciples want to send the crowds away to fend for themselves, but Jesus will not allow it.
Now put yourselves in the shoes of the disciples. In the face of so much hunger, Jesus turns to us and says, “Give them something to eat.”
Feeling helpless like the disciples did, we might be tempted to think that there’s nothing we can do. In some cases, we might even be suffering ourselves and worrying about the next meal. Even if we want to help, we may not know where to begin.
As followers of Christ, this is where our faith plays an important role. Jesus assures us that nothing is impossible to the one who has faith. We believe that whatever we do with love is multiplied by God many times over. So, even though none of us can solve hunger on our own, we can begin to make a difference and hopefully inspire others to action.
Without urgent action, we see thousands of children starving to death. There is enough food to feed every child and adult if we distribute it fairly, it is outrageous that millions face malnutrition and starvation. We have an opportunity to save many of these children, but we need to act now.” Let’s look at a few things that we can do.
Action One: One concrete step that those of us, who are from richer countries can take, is to eat less food. While adults typically need around 2000 calories a day, the average intake of middle class or above, is about 3600 calories a day. That means that most can live on about half of what they eat. On top of this, as a representative model of richer countries, we see that Americans throw away 40 million tons of food every year. Not only are they eating too much, they are also buying too much food and wasting much of it. All of us could manage to eat less, waste less, and then donate the money we save to a charity that serves hungry people.
Benefit: In addition, going without food from time to time is also a powerful spiritual practice. It helps us to discipline our wills and teaches us that we do not need as much as we think we do. Fasting gives us more empathy for those who go without. Saying “no” to our bodies also makes it easier for us to say “no” to other temptations.
Action Two: Another step we can take is to volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen. If we cannot find one, maybe we can start one.
Benefit: This work is so important not only because it provides meals for hungry people, but also because it gives us an opportunity to meet those we are helping. We see them not as faceless statistics but as real people with hopes and dreams who are not so different from ourselves. Meeting them helps us overcome our prejudices about poor people. We become less likely to blame them for their situation. It also helps us to grow spiritually as we begin to recognize Jesus in the poor.
Action Three: Another suggestion is to pray. When we listen to the Word, it becomes clear that the disciples are unable to do anything without Jesus’ help. In no way could they have fed the crowd unless Jesus had provided a miracle for them. The same is true for us.
Benefit: We cannot begin to tackle the problem of hunger – or any other problem – without God’s help. It is simply a matter of putting ourselves in God’s presence and asking Him what He wants us to do. He has a plan for us. He wants us to make a difference in the world. We just need to take time to be still so that He can reveal to us what we must do.
Example: Saint Teresa of Calcutta has shown us God’s plan for her. Before going into the streets of Calcutta, she would spend an hour in prayer. She knew that it was God doing the work through her. In fact, she said that she was just a pencil in His hands. She said, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” If we listen to God’s voice in prayer, we will discover how He wants us to serve the needy around us and He will ensure that what we do makes a difference, whether we ever see it or not.
In conclusion, God tells us in Psalm 145: “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” 365 times He tells us “Do Not Be Afraid”. God has created a world with enough food to feed everyone. Our job is to make sure it gets to the people who need it most. When judgment day comes, we will all be judged on how we served the poor among us. We all have different roles to play if we only would listen to God, believe what He says and take that first step forward.
To truly put an end to global hunger and the malnutrition crisis, the global community must address the root causes of food and nutrition insecurity. On this point, my good friend Ron Panzer shares a few personal thoughts with us. Thank you Ron.
About Hunger in the World by Ron Panzer
Yes, hunger and starvation do not need to afflict millions of people around the world! The resources exist to end hunger and starvation many times over. Government funds, raised through taxes on the people, are wasted on all sorts of useless and damaging products, activities and addictions. People individually choose to squander whatever wealth they have on many useless, damaging activities and addictions as well.
However, there is more going on than just the misuse of what we have as individuals or nations. Nowadays, we have government leaders and multi-national corporate leaders actively undermining the global supply of food through their wars, and the lockdowns that caused many businesses and farms to go out of business or cease operations for long periods. This, in turn, has made the supplies and the transportation of the supplies and food far scarcer than they would have been.
So many wrong-headed policies that are actively undermining the freedoms and well-being of the people on a global scale are distressing to see. It is heart-wrenching to contemplate the terrible suffering they are actively encouraging, but the world has always had such evil striking the people with even more suffering than comes with life itself in our fallen condition.
Those of us who have traveled widely in many countries have seen the poorest of the poor. When I walk through the grocery and other stores here in the US, I think of the poor throughout the world. There are so many who are literally starving, barely surviving, and some are dying on the streets for lack of care. We have seen them languishing in the gutters! They are dehydrated, with despair filling their eyes, emaciated, and abandoned by all!
Those of us who have traveled in many parts of the world may have been treated very kindly by generous and loving newly-made friends, but we also may at one point or another have taken in some tainted water and become very sick. Some of us may have been rendered completely unconscious and sick for many days! Only through the tender care of these friends or medical staff were some of us saved from death simply due to drinking tainted water!
People in industrialized nations take clean water and hygienic conditions for granted, but so many others suffer in terrible conditions without the benefits of water treatment plants, sewage and garbage collection, and clean food processing facilities. How strange it is that people mostly don’t care to do something about this for others! It is true that all of us are selfish by nature and only by His grace are we made less selfish and ugly.
So many do not appreciate what they have! And many are terribly attached to the things they “own” (though at death all of it will pass on to others).
Yes, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. Has it ever been otherwise? And those in the middle class, are also mostly caught up in their material possessions. But how long will the middle class be allowed to exist with the policies being imposed from “above” in governments around the world today? As hard as it may be to accept, it is becoming clearer each day that the ultra-wealthy elites are working very hard to destroy the middle class so there will mostly only be the poor who depend upon the technocratic government and the ultra wealthy who control the global government to come that they are working toward manifesting in this world. This is madness inspired by greed for even more wealth and power!
While we do live our lives, furnish and maintain our homes, and acquire so many things, do do we really need so much? Should we be so concerned about our homes and how they look to others, or what we wear and how we appear to others, or what others think? It is part of our nature that we do care about these things, but do we even consider what the dear blessed Lord Jesus thinks of what we do, say, and think?
I know that we should at any moment be able to walk away from everything that we know and own if the Lord were to call us to serve Him somewhere else. How many could do this? Only those who truly love Him and pant after His sacred touch with every breath they take and yearn to be with Him constantly drenched in His love!
Whatever happens, it does always come down to each one of us who are the individual actors who play our part in moving the world in one direction or another on a grand scale or on a very small scale. We can make a difference in the world – for good or for ill!
It is me and you – each one of us in the world – who individually choose one or the other! I pray that we choose to care for one another and do our part to relieve the suffering in the world!