In its dazzling portrait of world hunger, the writer Martín Caparrós asked himself this question: “(…) how to fight against the degradation of words? The words ‘millions-of-people-go-hunger’ should mean something, cause something, produce certain reactions. But, in general, words no longer do those things. Something would happen, perhaps, if we could give meaning back to words ”.
Caparrós published his book in 2015, the lowest time point in the global incidence of malnutrition since we kept track. Since then things have only gotten worse. The 2020 figures –690 million hungry people– are ten million higher than those of the previous year and sixty million more than five years ago. “Sixty million” that are misplaced between “Ayuso” and “Suez”, between “homeland” and “virus”.
Stalin is credited with claiming that one death is a tragedy, but one million deaths is just a statistic. It is difficult to refute a genocide in this field.
Individuals should be counted, even if it takes a little longer. Tell each of the mothers I met in Kiffa (Mauritania), with her simple way of explaining to UNICEF staff that things were going better: “my son no longer eats sand.” Or peek into each of the (few) windows that are opening to the crisis in Mozambique, where a perfect storm of covid, terrorism and corporate looting is burying the north of the country in a food hole even deeper than the one they already inhabited. .
The statistics are worth breaking down. Speak, one by one, of the 23 countries and the 146,700,000 people trapped in the acute food insecurity within them. This category defines a state of immediate danger for those who suffer from it and indicates the need for urgent intervention. By whoever. There are 19.6 million Congolese, 16.1 million Yemenis, 12.4 million Syrians, 7.1 million Sudanese. Also 9.3 million Venezuelans and 3.7 million Guatemalans, do not go to think that this is only a matter of Africans and countries at war.
It would take days to count them one after the other. Months in explaining the hell that each of the parents go through when they see their children go out. Consider the statistical accumulation of what FAO and the World Food Program have called the hunger hot spots (see map). Their most recent report suggests that these places are on the brink of fire, amid a succession of biblical plagues: conflict, extreme natural shocks, locusts and epidemics. Especially worrisome the situation of 34 million people in countries such as the DR Congo, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia or Nigeria. All of them, each one of them, could end up starving.
The response of the richest countries to this crisis is also biblical, by Pharisee. While the United States, the EU or the United Kingdom have embarked on self-rescue operations whose financial magnitudes have few historical precedents, the hole of humanitarian emergencies threatens to break all records. The scrupulous financial monitoring of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is a defaulting relationship in which defaults have been growing over the last decade in parallel with humanitarian needs. The ceiling had been reached in 2020, with a global request of $ 38,537 million and a response of 50% of that amount throughout the year. When we are less than three months into 2021, the required figure already exceeds $ 35 billion and the donor response has been 4.5% (four-point-five-percent).
How to fight, then, against the degradation of words? How to transfer all the force of “hunger”, “hypocrisy”, “urgency”, “forgetfulness”? How to rise a couple of feet to check the luck of having fallen on this side of the pandemic?
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.