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Hunger, the silenced war

Hunger, the silenced war

By Carlos Ayala Ramírez

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), one in four children under the age of five in the world is stunted. This means that 165 million children are so malnourished that they will never reach their full physical and cognitive potential. Approximately 2 billion people in the world lack essential vitamins and minerals for good health. Some 1.4 billion people are overweight; of these, about a third are obese and are at risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Malnourished women are more likely to give birth to underweight children, who start life with a higher risk of physical and / or cognitive deficiencies. According to FAO, maternal malnutrition is one of the main transmission routes of poverty from generation to generation.

Hunger and malnutrition thus progressively kill more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The global data continues to be dramatic: 870 million people go hungry; women, who make up just over half of the world's population, represent over 60% of hungry people; acute malnutrition kills 10,000 children every day. This last piece of information, by itself, is scandalous and would be sufficient argument to transform the current food system, whose inequity generates more deaths than any of the current wars. Or perhaps we are facing another type of war, this time silent.

In the case of El Salvador, of its 262 municipalities, 188 are in the population group with medium malnutrition; 28, with discharge; and seven, with very high malnutrition. The rest appear in the low and very low group.

If we stick to these data, we cannot speak of famine in the country, but that does not imply ignoring the reality of thousands of families who continue to suffer the anguish and uncertainty of food insecurity.

Eduardo Galeano, in his book The Children of the Days, talks about silent wars. He denounces that poverty, with all its consequences, does not explode like bombs or sound like gunshots, but it still produces death. And with critical acuity he points out that “of the poor, we know everything: what they don't work on, what they don't eat, how much they don't weigh, how much they don't measure, what they don't have, what they don't think, what they don't vote, what they don't believe in. We only need to know why the poor are poor. Is it because his nakedness dresses us and his hunger gives us food? ”.


On October 16, World Food Day is celebrated with the purpose of publicizing and highlighting the problems related to hunger. This year, the central theme is "Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition". Three are the central messages sent to the world and to political and economic decision makers. First, good nutrition depends on healthy diets; second, these diets require food systems that allow access to varied and nutritious foods; third, healthy food systems are only possible with concrete and consistent policies and incentives. For FAO, government policies must directly address the causes of malnutrition, including the insufficient availability and limited access to healthy, varied and nutritious food; the lack of access to safe water, sanitation and health care; and inappropriate forms of infant feeding and adult diets.

Thus, this year the emphasis is on malnutrition, rather than hunger, which means that you have something to eat, even if it is not the most nutritious. It further assumes that increased food production alone does not guarantee adequate nutrition. However, without underestimating the value of this approach, it must be borne in mind, if a structural solution is to be found, that the greatest obstacle to overcoming hunger and malnutrition in the world is the lack of progress in achieving equitable development and more sustainable livelihoods not only for the most vulnerable groups, but for the whole of society. And that happens, necessarily, to reduce the enormous disparities in the world and in each country.

In Latin America, for example, the gap between rich and poor has increased. The richest 20% of the population has an average per capita income almost 20 times higher than the income of the poorest 20%. The fact that 47 million people suffer from hunger in the region is largely explained by this uneven and unfair concentration of wealth. On the other hand, it is claimed that saving the world's hungry requires about $ 30 billion annually.

A small number if we compare it with the military expenses of the United States in 2012: 682 billion dollars. It is clear that in the world military security is more important than food security, expenses for war than expenses for living. Another scandalous figure is represented by the 1,300 million tons of food that each year is thrown away instead of directing it to reduce hunger and malnutrition.

These data on hunger, malnutrition, military expenditures, concentration of wealth and food waste refer to death, directly or indirectly. And in this context, the words of Jesus of Nazareth are prophetic and hopeful: “Blessed are you who are hungry now, because you will be satisfied… But alas! of you who are now satiated, because you are going to go hungry ”. Here is a first step to bear with the reality of those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition: their cry has been heard and they have been removed from their non-existence by making their situation central; necessary conditions to decide to work for justice and end the silent wars of the present.

- Carlos Ayala Ramírez, director of Radio YSUCA

Latin American Information Agency


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