We have all been hungry sometime, right? Truth is, it’s not pleasant. Thankfully, in our well-developed western environment, this uncomfortable sensation doesn’t last for long, since we always have something to quell it with. The “hunger” most of us know is defined by the English dictionary as “an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food”. It’s not about being unable to enjoy our “second breakfast” or the “mid-morning cravings”. Because, let’s face it, that wouldn’t be as big a problem as to have the UN attempt to put an end to it, right? Actually, we are talking about different things. If we keep reading the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we find the third definition of the noun “hunger”, which states: “a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food”. Well. Maybe if we put the problem under such a drastic light, it should actually be dealt with. Has any of you ever been through this type of “hunger”? By chance of the social lottery, I have not.
Economy Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen has for years been inviting us to reflect on the conceptual construct surrounding the right to nutrition and its link to human dignity. What is more, he does so claiming that “no democratic country has ever been hungry”. Not to argue with him, I consider countries don’t feel hunger – people in them do. While Amartya Sen was referring to the great famines suffered by certain African and eastern countries (particularly China) during times of political oppression, the fact that hunger also strikes people living in democratic countries still holds true. The problem emerges when the growth and wealth of a country are measured in macroeconomic terms linked to GDP.
Regardless of strictly economic data, there is an estimated 800 million people in the world who are unable to procure what we call “staple food”, which precludes them from leading a healthy and active life. Even more dramatic is the fact that 12.9% of the population in developing countries is malnourished. The body compensates for the lack of energy by diminishing its physical and mental activity. A hungry mind cannot concentrate, a hungry body cannot take the initiative, a hungry child loses all desire to play and study. And, unfortunately, there not being more famished people in the world is a result of such a famine silently ending their lives, as is the case for the more than 3 million boys and girls under 5 years old dying every year in the world from malnutrition.
Sometimes, to avoid acting, we fool ourselves by blaming others, natural selection or distance. But we no longer have an excuse to disregard the problem. Media has taken care of bringing that reality into our homes. Nonetheless, in the face of such a drama and considering the millions of lives at stake, instead of this causing an alarm to go off, making us leap off our comfortable couches, it seems all media accomplishes for most of us is desensitization to such a tragedy. Because, what do we do to help? Most of us just post a comment on social networks, raising awareness to the fact that there is still some humanity in us, showing sorrow for “the children in the picture”. But this infancy that hunger is sucking the life out of will not have a second chance. Because we only have one life. Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has expressed it in a very explicit fashion when speaking about these Sustainable Development Goals: “We don’t have any plan B because we don’t have any planet B”.
We have to bring our efforts together and be creative when seeking solutions, but we also have to modify our consumerist habits, making them more compatible with food sustainability. This is why we are making a call to action, and we are still looking for superheroes who think we are still on time. These problems start getting solved through local action and education. Always through education.