by Henrylito D. Tacio
“One person dying of hunger every four seconds,” said the news report which came out in Manila Times last September 21 (yes, the time when the country commemorated the 50th year when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law all over the country).
“One person is estimated to be dying of hunger every four seconds, over 200 non-government organizations warned, urging decisive international action to ‘end the spiraling global hunger crisis,” said the lead of the Agence France-Presse syndicated report.
The news report was based on an open letter addressing world leaders – including the country’s current president, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. – who attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
About 238 organizations – which included Oxfam, Save the Children, and Plan International – from 75 countries signed the open letter. They expressed outrage at the escalating hunger levels.
“A staggering 345 million people are now experiencing acute hunger, a number that has more than doubled since 2019,” they said in a statement.
We, Filipinos, are not spared from hunger. In September 2020, a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations showed that 31% of the families in our country “experienced hunger in the past 30 days,” and about 9% suffered from severe hunger.
Another survey done in 2021 showed that 13.1%, or 2.9 million children, were estimated to be hungry.
“Hunger is exponentially depriving a generation of Filipino children of their rights and heavily impacts their growth and development in many ways,” decried Atty. Albert Muyot, the chief executive officer of Save the Children-Philippines.
“There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread,” India’s Mahatma Gandhi once said. “An empty stomach is not a good political adviser,” Albert Einstein pointed out.
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist,” wrote Dom Helder Camara in Essential Writings.
That seems absurd. But this statement, I think, is more ridiculous: “One billion people in the world are chronically hungry. One billion people are overweight.” That comes from the pen of Mark Bittman, author of Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes.
Actually, hunger is the physical sensation of desiring food. When politicians, relief workers, and social scientists talk about people suffering from hunger, they usually refer to those who are unable to eat enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs for sustained periods of time.
As far back as 1945, the United Nations recognized food as not a privilege but a right, and that’s why they created World Food Day. Observed since 1979, it’s a day of observance to draw attention to the plight of the hungry.
World Food Day will be observed this coming October 16 – it’s the day when the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded. It is based in Rome, Italy and its regional office is located in Bangkok, Thailand.
Like health, food is essential. “Food is literally the most important thing in the world,” said Arturo R. Tanco, Jr., who was then president of the World Food Council. “It is not even next to life, because it is life itself. Deprived of the right to food, man knows no other.
“For the hungry, there is no dignity, no human rights, no rule of law, no liberty, no celebration of the spirit… the most crucial task before the world community today is to assure that enough food is available at the right place, at the right time, and at the right price,” Tanco added.
In the beginning, God created everything for human beings – including food. Genesis 1:29-30 recorded: “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.”
Today, food is seen as a basic human right, and yet world hunger continues to rise. One in nine people globally experience chronic hunger, according to the recent FAO report, “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.”
The UN food agency said that an estimated 821 million people suffer from chronic food deprivation. In Asia alone, the projected prevalence of undernourishment is 11.4%, representing more than 515 million people.
Curiously enough, the world currently produces enough food to feed every person on the planet. However, 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted annually – that’s roughly 20% of the food produced and worth US$1 trillion, according to FAO.
Almost half of all fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers produced are wasted, the UN food agency said.
It has been found out that in developing countries, 40% of losses occur post-harvest or during processing, while in industrialized countries, more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.
Food waste squanders land and water used to produce those crops. When left to rot, wasted food releases methane, a greenhouse gas.
“If current trends continue, food waste will rise to 2.1 billion tons annually by 2030,” FAO claimed.