One child dies every 5 seconds of hunger and related diseases.
You have no doubt run across these sad statistics before, perhaps in a television appeal or a news article. Frankly, they are hard to get your mind around and a bit paralyzing. It's difficult to imagine all that loss of innocent life. But if you had the opportunity, as I have, to see some of these young children, to hold them in your arms and look into the eyes of their pleading mothers, the statistics become far too real. And they haunt you.
I recall all too vividly the first time I held a dying child in Africa. First, there was an incredible sorrow and, then quickly after, a deep shame. How could we -- how could I -- let this happen? The child's face was blank, but somehow I still saw a plea in it. I certainly saw a plea in the face of his mother, who I know thought that somehow I could miraculously help.
I couldn't. It was already too late. How is this still happening in 2007? We are so rich in the United States, Europe and Japan that we watch sports and soap operas on expensive cell phones and the value of the food we throw away far exceeds what it would cost to feed all the world's orphans and refugees.
Do I sound like I am pushing some global welfare scheme? I am not. But I am really frustrated and ashamed that we tolerate hunger and malnutrition on the scale that it still exists today. We so clearly have the capacity to end it.
According to the World Health Organization, hunger and malnutrition are still the single biggest threat to health worldwide, claiming more lives than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
So why aren't we getting the traction we need to do something about them? I suspect that many people in the West do not really believe hunger is as lethal as we know it is. In the United States we have been incredibly prosperous for decades now, and we see the world through the lens of our own daily experience.
Each of us can reach out to some less-fortunate child who needs us. After all, isn't that what you would want if your child were starving?
[Excerpt of an Indianapolis Star article in the by James Morris, just retired executive director of the United Nations World Food Program]