HOW CAN WE GO ABOUT OUR COMFORTABLE LIVES WHILE MILLIONS OF HUMAN BEINGS NEEDLESSLY STARVE TO DEATH EACH YEAR?
Having enough food to eat is a fundamental human right, and because there is more than enough food for everyone, there is absolutely no justification for life threatening hunger to occur.
Each day there are 400 million hungry children in the world. This is in contrast to a recent report that stated that as many as 50% of all Americans are now overweight. In the United States we spend 40 billion dollars a year on diet foods and weight loss programs. Obviously there are very real medical conditions that can cause excessive weight gain; however, a significant amount of obesity is simply the result of over consumption. Human beings in extreme poverty should not be allowed to starve to death while we waste billions of dollars because we eat too much. The fact that we negatively impact our health by eating too many calories while their health is permanently damaged because they can’t consume enough calories is ridiculous.
We have to change the way we think about food. It is not something we can abuse or over indulge in. It is not something we can waste indiscriminately. In America almost 15% of all food purchases are tossed out without ever being opened. Overall, Americans waste about 25% of their food. A typical American family throws away 120 pounds of food per month. In one year, the United States throws away about 95 billion pounds of edible food.
Withholding food from a person will kill them just as surely as putting a gun to their head and pulling the trigger. Therefore, we have a moral obligation to feed everyone with absolutely no exceptions. We sentence people to death row after they have taken someone’s life, but we feed them. People who are terminally ill are fed up until the last possible moment. Individuals who are medically diagnosed as brain dead receive the proper nutrition necessary to sustain life, but for some unimaginable reason we are more than willing to let 6,570,000 children die from starvation and hunger related causes each year without giving it a second thought.
A starving ten-year old boy living in extreme poverty would be far better off if he came to America and killed you or me. He would receive more humane treatment here as a criminal than he receives as an innocent child living in deprivation. This is a sad testament to the world we live in, but it must be acknowledged that it is a world of our own making.
It would never enter our minds to let our pets starve to death. That is why Americans spend 16 billion dollars on pet food each year. When we see a news story on TV about animals that have been starved we our outraged by how anyone could be so cruel, and yet while we are watching the report people are dying at that very moment from starvation around the world. These are human beings that are dying, not animals. These are young children who die before they’ve even had a chance at life. Are their lives not as valuable as the lives of our pets? Are we more sensitive to the mistreatment of animals than to children?
Starving to death is a horrible way to die. You become a living skeleton. You develop open sores that seep. You are prone to a variety of infections due to your weakened immune system, and disease attacks your body. You become so dehydrated that your skin literally cracks open and bleeds. Fungi grow under your esophagus making swallowing excruciating. Overwhelming fatigue sets in and you become too weak to move. Your internal organs shrink as they are deprived of nutrients. There is swelling of the face, torso and extremities caused by the abnormal accumulation of fluid. Excess fluid also gathers in the pleural cavity, making breathing difficult and painful.
After suffering in agony for weeks you finally die, without receiving medical care. Your death was completely unnecessary. There was plenty of food in the world – it just wasn’t available to you. Your life was not considered important enough to save. You were expendable. You were ignored by an uncaring world.
Obviously aid is urgently needed to deliver food immediately into ravaged areas in order to save lives – but that is only a short term fix. A more comprehensive effort has to be undertaken so that local farmers are supported and given the tools they need to increase their levels of production. Economic supports need to be put into place including infrastructure to get locally grown food to those who need it. Water and irrigation is critical to sustaining and increasing crop production. Farmers must have access to modern equipment and instruction on how to get the highest yield from their land. We need to make the long-term financial commitment to help them do these things so they can become self-sufficient. The more food they can grow for themselves the less dependent they will be on a world that does not always respond with compassion.
Hunger can be eradicated in our lifetime, but it will require significant effort on many fronts – and it will demand a corresponding effort from those we seek to help. With our assistance they will be able to increase their ability to sustain themselves with their own crops. That is an effort they will be more than willing to make because they do not want to continue to watch their children die.
Having sufficient food to ensure good health is a basic human right. This is not a philosophical debate. There is no moral ambiguity involved. To deny anyone access to food is a form of murder. To deny it to specific populations is a form of genocide. Food is not a weapon that can be employed with cruelty and disregard. Food is not a product that can be bartered or used as a negotiating tool. Food is exempt from all the other things in life that must be paid for because without it there is no life. When we allow people to starve to death day after day we are making the immoral choice to let it happen. When innocent people die and we do nothing to stop it we are complicit in their deaths.
HUNGER IS A MORAL ISSUE BECAUSE FOOD IS LIFE.