Walk with The Hungry - the Poorest of the PoorBy Kevin Chiu, Chief Executive Officer of World Vision Hong Kong
The baby boy in my hands was eight months old. He was sucking his finger and making hunger sobs. He was sick, sleeping, and seriously malnourished - weighing 11 or 12 pounds. His mother was sick and did not have milk for him. Together with other 700,000 Rohingya refugees, this mother and her baby fled Myanmar to find safety near Cox’s Bazar, on the eastern border of Bangladesh. There, an instant "tent" city was born - a city without electricity, roads, water supply, hospitals, or schools. There, many many children and babies were suffering from malnutrition and dying due to declining health, poor hygiene, and little medical supplies. Food was not around or enough.
Similar crises are being played out in many parts of the world - South Sudanese refugees in Kenya and Uganda, Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, refugees from DR Congo in Tanzania and Kenya, etc. Wars and conflicts destroy homes and livelihood and safety - to live is to leave!
The little girl was lying face down, motionless, on the muddy floor of a makeshift classroom, in Kakuma, northern Kenya, .... "Is she okay?" I yelled to the teacher. Holding the girl up, the teacher assured me, "She is okay. She is just too hungry... We used to feed them breakfast and lunch in school, but these days we have no more food." The little girl began to cry and make noise, like a small wounded animal. Many of these children did not eat regularly and their body had been shrinking. The teacher was helpless. There was no food.
Kakuma suffered years of chronic drought. Farming or cattle-raising failed repeatedly. Many left - only the very poor were left behind. Jobs did not exist. Countless rural communities in Sub-Sahara Africa are like Kakuma.
In our world of plenty and increasing affluence, the number of hungry people has gone up in the past two years - standing at 821 million. That is, on average, one out of every nine people on the planet goes to bed hungry at night. The main reason for the increase in the past two years is the growing number of refugees. Refugees are the new global poor and they are hungry! Ironically, the number of overweight people has been rising - standing at 2 billion. That means one in every four people in our global village eats too much. The world is drunk and sick!
In our city of great material abundance, since 1984, World Vision Hong Kong has been running an annual education campaign - the 30-hour Famine Campaign - to remind us not to forget the hungry in the world. The hungry are the poorest of the poor. Food is the last thing the poor have to give up. To give up food is to begin to die! In the past 35 years, through the 30-hour Famine Campaign, more than 1.3 million people have participated and more than $350 million have been raised to support short term food aid and long term food security programs around the world, especially in Africa. It is our dream that no one should go to bed hungry. But before that happens, we will continue to fast 30 hours together to show our solidarity and to raise needed resources to support them. Please join us.