For people already living in extreme poverty on our planet, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been especially cruel, wiping out jobs, food sources and disrupting supply chains. Bread for the World reports 811 million people worldwide face hunger. Altogether, an estimated 59 million young children will likely face life-threatening malnutrition. Within that number, nearly 14 million children are likely to be severely malnourished by next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts.
Our faith calls us to divert our attention away from the politicization of the pandemic to reach out in solidarity to our suffering brothers and sisters across the globe. We are called to pray, raise awareness for others and ourselves about the causes and extent of global hunger and to work to alleviate and eliminate hunger in the world. Let us begin by urging our Congressional delegation to co-sponsor the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021 (H.S. 4693/S. 2956).
Bread for the World reports that the bipartisan legislation will authorize the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) to advance targeted programs to prevent and treat malnutrition around the world. Furthermore, the legislation focuses on nutrition programs across global health, food systems and other sectors and requires monitoring of these interventions to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars. Every dollar invested results in an estimated $35 in economic return, Bread for the World says.
Investing in nutrition saves lives, creates stability and makes economic sense. Equally important, the bill can help protect the nutrition of women and children during the critical 1,000-day period between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. Good nutrition is essential in children’s physical and mental health development.
Especially encouraging in this era of divisiveness is the bipartisan support for the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021. Members of the U.S. Senate introduced this bill as a companion to legislation that members of the U.S. House introduced this past summer, according to Bread for the World.
The hunger-fighting agency says “malnutrition remains among the top risk factors contributing to nearly half of all preventable deaths among children under age five. And without strategic investments and interventions, the devastating impacts of COVID-19 could wind back decades of progress in alleviating maternal and child nutrition.”
Contact Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst and your U.S. representative to co-sponsor this hunger-fighting legislation (congress.gov). S.2956 has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Follow progress on the bill at Congress.gov and Bread for the World (bread.org).
Promoting worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and the need to ensure healthy diets for all of us are goals of World Food Day, celebrated this year on Oct. 16. It is an initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Visit the website (https://www.fao.org/world-food-day/en) to learn about the ways in which individuals and governments can work to ensure that people have access to nutritious, healthy food to sustain themselves and the planet.
The initiative dovetails with Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Action Platform to help build our relationships with one another, with God and with our planet. The World Food Day website notes “#WorldFoodDay 2021 will be marked a second time while countries around the world deal with the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a time to look into the future we need to build together.”
Also in October, the 2021 Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue will take place virtually Oct. 20-22. The Des Moines-based event brings together international experts, policy leaders, business executives and farmers to address global food security and nutrition. Learn more about the World Food Prize (worldfoodprize.org) and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who inspired it.
Finally, take time to visit the Catholic Relief Services website (crs.org) to learn how the nonprofit organization carries out the commitment of the U.S. bishops to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas. The agency provides sustenance to the hungry but also provides the hungry with the tools to sustain themselves.
Our faith informs us that we cannot allow even one of the 811 million hungry people in the world to go without the bread of life.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor