Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Comment from Josette Sherran of the World Food Programme

Earlier this week, some officials from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said the fight against hunger could be lost. But in an opinion piece that we found today in the Huffington Post, Josette Sheeran Executive Director of the World Food Programme, is more optimistic.

In her opinion piece, Sherran begins be stating some of things she's learned, then gives an example of a great victory in the fight against hunger.

Most importantly, however, I have learned that hunger is a winnable problem that we can all help solve. Today the world is nourishing more people than ever before in human history. Ending hunger and malnutrition is not rocket science: it requires no new huge scientific breakthroughs. Between 1969 and 2004, we cut the proportion of hunger by half. Most recently, nations such as China, Brazil, Ghana, Malawi, Vietnam, Thailand and many others have been making serious gains against hunger.

In fact, less than 20 years ago China was WFP's biggest program. Today we provide no food aid to China. These nations follow the success of Europe and Japan in beating hunger after World War II. Many nations such as Ireland - the land of my own ancestors - only broke the cycle of famine, hunger and agricultural impoverishment a few generations ago.

Wherever I go, I always take with me a humble red plastic cup. It's a cup that came from Lillian, a little girl from Rwanda who once filled it each school day in one of WFP's school feeding programs. We gave Lillian a new cup, but for her and for 20 million school children fed by WFP, this cup may be the only food they receive each day. We have even seen many children take the incredible step of eating only half of their rations - so they can bring home the rest to brothers and sisters too young to go to school.

In 2008, when food prices doubled, we at WFP were faced with a terrible dilemma: do we cut rations in half - or feed half of our beneficiaries?

Instead, I appealed to the world and a miracle happened: the world stepped forward and refused to let a food crisis become a humanitarian tragedy. By extending and expanding our school feeding programs and adding millions to our rolls, we were able to quell food riots and cool things down.

Former Senator George McGovern, one of the principal architects of our country's own school lunch programs, has a dream - that no child on earth would go to school hungry. What would it cost the world to say every schoolchild who needs it has at least a cup of nourishing food each day? Less than $3 billion a year - and in a year we read in the news that Christmas bonuses on Wall Street totaled more than $30 billion.

This is not permanent charity - as dozens of countries have "graduated" from food aid and school feeding programs, once food security is assured. As world leaders prepare for the G-8 Summit this summer, there will be a lot of talk about the economic crisis and financial rescues. But as we worry about Wall Street and Main Street, let us not forgot about the places where there are no streets - and make sure that we put a human rescue package at the top of the list. Let's keep the red cup filled. Learn more at:

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