It was President Harry Truman who said “we cannot ignore the cry of hungry children... A sound world order can never be built upon a foundation of human misery.”
Fighting child hunger across the globe is vital to our foreign policy. But it does not get nearly enough attention from the leadership in Washington, D.C.
That is why Mount St. Joseph University students in Ohio are taking action in their Human Rights course, writing letters to Congress. They are urging their representatives to support the Global Nutrition Resolutions (H. Res 189 and S. 260) that make fighting world hunger a top priority. They are working together with Bread for the World to make this happen.
We need to increase funding for global nutrition programs, especially those that feed malnourished children and mothers. These initiatives work, but we just need more of them with world hunger on the rise for the 3rd straight year according to the UN.
Small children who are malnourished will suffer lasting physical and mental damage. As the Resolution states “poor maternal nutrition contributes to poor fetal development and low birth weight, and an estimated 60 to 80 percent of neonatal deaths occur in low birth weight babies.”
So nutrition interventions must happen quickly and consistently. As Representative Jim McGovern says “Over 151 million children in the world are undernourished. It is critical for the United States to sustain our engagement on child nutrition and build on our success. This is the best way for us to show the world what America stands for and use our influence to make a real difference in people’s lives.”
We need to make sure enriched foods like Plumpy’Nut and Plumpy’Sup reach malnourished kids and save their lives. Rhode Island based Edesia has been producing this food for Yemen and other countries suffering high rates of malnutrition. But there is so much more needed given the size of the crisis.
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It is our great humanitarian tradition to respond to those in need, especially the most vulnerable women and children.
President Truman, along food ambassador Herbert Hoover, made nutrition a priority after World War II. This saved millions of lives and along with the Marshall Plan helped win the peace in Europe. Children especially benefited from food aid through infant feeding and school lunch programs.
Today, we are called to action again today to rescue millions across the globe from deadly malnutrition. The civil war in Yemen has caused a major hunger crisis with children dying of starvation. In East Africa drought is causing more food shortages.
Save the Children warns that “More than one million children in Somalia under the age of five face acute malnutrition unless the international community drastically steps up funding for lifesaving interventions.”
Conflict in Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan and the Sahel of Africa are putting even more children at risk of hunger. Cyclone Idai’s devastation in Mozambique has damaged agriculture leading to increased hunger.
The World Food Program, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Action against Hunger, UNICEF and other charities can treat malnutrition if they have the resources. But funding for aid programs like Food for Peace and the McGovern-Dole school lunches is too low.
President Trump’s budget proposals have called for eliminating some food aid programs, despite the increase in world hunger. Congress, which has the power of the purse, can change all this by increasing food aid and nutrition funding to fight hunger.
After World War II we responded to stop malnutrition as it threatened the conflict torn nations. We saved a generation of children as a result. But today we must respond to cries of hunger from abroad. We can save starving children and mothers and give a whole new generation life and hope.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” His writing have been published by the NY Times, Baltimore Sun, History News Network and many other news outlets.