Dr. RamahaniAbdallah, the Tanzanian doctor and researcher at Harvard, holds that hidden hunger is the most worrying of all forms of starvation. I couldn’t agree with him more. Not every type of starvation causes the extreme thinness seen in the ribs of the smallest children or enlarges adult eyes to the point they fill half their face.
The starvation which kills more than 25,000 people daily is that which leaves people malnourished, in such fragile health and so vulnerable that they die from just seeing a virus pass by. They die from hidden hunger.
But there is something on which Dr. Abdallah and I disagree profoundly: the global approach to solving this tragedy. Regrettably, his economic stance is extremely widespread and has been used repeatedly in the hope of making a convincing case, of managing to open the eyes of economic gurus the world over, those powerful people who decide where $10 billion a year goes. Much has been made of his investment strategy but little has been done, in real terms, to put it into practice. Dr. Abdallah must have wondered why over the last few years deaths caused by malaria and HIV have decreased by almost 40% whilst infant mortality due to starvation has fallen by just 1%. The answer is investment in research. That’s the unavoidable truth of the matter because, it should be known, they’ve counted those affected: more than 3 million children a year die due to starvation.
That’s the way things were and they have not changed.
Dr. Abdallah also points to the domino effect set in motion by the damage caused by malnutrition in that it impedes educational achievement and, ultimately, affects national economies. But he doesn’t even devote one single word to the crime that it is that a child doesn’t get to go to school and contribute to the national economy because they have died due to lack of vitamins which are available but too expensive for their parents to buy. Nothing about ethics, nothing about morals, nothing about rights, and nothing about politics.
Rather, it is the simple analysis of a statistical occurrence. A child going blind due to starvation is but one more element of the equation to be studied.
The Syrian city of Madaya has thrust a new concept into the spotlight. Despite being unknown to many people, it is actually a very old idea: hunger as a weapon of war. There are countless examples of sieges in the history of humankind. All of them involve breaking a population's resolve, and the most effective way to do it - hunger. Now, in Syria, it is no longer a case of people dying of hunger because of malnutrition, a failure of people to react, or lack of planning and development. We are now talking about induced hunger; hunger which is deliberately provoked so that a few enemies hidden amongst a vast population will be forced to surrender.
We’re reading about it. Once again, drought is putting millions of people at risk causing a food crisis which local governments, of dubious legitimacy, are incapable of solving, meaning that the only natural solution is international aid.