Food for Thought
All over the world people are in need, people are suffering, and people are calling out for help. Since John F. Kennedy became the founder of the Peace Corps, the United States Government has become an active force in foreign aid. Foreign aid is the government-backed program that lends money, food, and medical supplies to third world countries in an attempt to revamp their economy. The belief is that spending money now will help to bring millions of new consumers into the world markets and end the suffering that these people have felt for years.
Throughout America, many people believe that the government should look to aid people at home rather than abroad. These people believe that the Land of Opportunity is not doing its job in securing the financial well being of its own citizens. Therefore they believe that the United States should not help the people that live in slums around the world. Considering the fact that, “[e]very three seconds a child dies from hunger, poverty, and disease. That means every time you breathe, another child dies” (Fast), it becomes increasingly harder not to look abroad. If these critics simply look at the statistics, it becomes clearly evident that poverty in this great nation is due to general lack of motivation and not lack of opportunity as exists in these countries.
Due to the fact that the United States provides many opportunities to climb the social ladder out of poverty, it becomes necessary for the United States to send aid abroad. It is the duty of this great country to extend a hand to the starving people around the world and to help bring them out of their misery and into the happiness that the citizens of this country enjoy. No one can look at the emaciated child from Africa and deny him his basic rights to nourishment that will simply keep him alive. Without this aid, millions of people will die and therefore the only option is to extend more aid abroad. The responsibility of foreign aid rests with the United States because of world neglect, affluence at home versus abroad, and famine. Even the atrocities of these issues ravage some parts of the world; the general feeling of most Americans is “out of sight, out of mind”. Only with the involvement of the United States can this world crisis end. First the citizens of this country must cast off their apathy and embrace the problem, then they must vote for change.
Many countries are sympathetic to those suffering around the world. Many of these world leaders have promised millions of dollars in aid to help the cause. The United Nations has set up many programs to help curb the poverty rates that are ravaging countries. Over the last few years the United Nations’ World Food Program has tried to collect money for over 300 million people who are currently starving in Africa. According to the U.N. World Food Program, donations have been received from “Japan [has donated] $11.3 billion, the U.S. [has donated] $9.7 billion, France [has donated] $7.9 billion and Germany [has donated] $7 billion” (Harris). The world is making a conscious effort to end world poverty and the more aid that is donated, the further the cause will progress. At home the United States has sanctioned many groups such as the Red Cross, Peace Corps, and World Vision to raise money to help the foreign aid costs. In fact, through organizations such as these, “the number of children who die from hunger and preventable diseases has fallen from 40,000 to 29,000 a day [since 1992]” (Fast). The United States is making an attempt to match dollar for dollar all the profits raised by World Vision in 2007 up to twenty-four million dollars. Not only does the United States make a conscience effort with foreign aid, but also an unintentional one. It has been estimated that “[a]t least $39 billion flowed out of the United States last year, wired home by legal immigrants” (Boudreaux). Clearly the world and specifically the United States is making an effort to send foreign aid abroad and will continue to do so in the future.
While many of the world leaders have promised aid, the majority of the world has taken a stance of out of sight, out of mind when it comes to those in need. The figures of money sent in by the wealthy countries are impressive, but much more is still needed. The United Nations’ World Food Program stated that it needed an additional $25 billion dollars in addition to what had already been received. This proposal has received far less than what is needed and the countries claim that they have no money to spend on foreign aid. The irony in this is that “Europe spends $50 billion in cigarettes per year, Japan spends $35 billion in business entertainment, the U.S. spends $31 billion on beer and Hong Kong spent $23 billion on the new international airport” (Darling). One would think that nations who claim not to not have money left to spend on saving lives would not have money for cigarettes, entertainment, and beer. While these nations aimlessly spend money on simple pleasures, “1.2 billion people live on less that $1 a day. That’s more that 1/6 of the world’s population” (Fast). This means that even the person who works minimum wage in the United States for one hour is bringing in over 500% of what more than one sixth of the world’s population. Some people point to a scarcity of food as one of the problems faced in today’s world. Contrary to popular belief, “[a]bundance, not scarcity, best describes the world’s food supply. Enough wheat, rice and even other grain products are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day” (Poole-Kavana). If this is truly the case, then the United States is not doing a very good job in the foreign aid department and therefore needs to do more. Due to general neglect and self-greed, many people still suffer while the citizens of the United States sleep in comfort.
While the world neglects problem, the United States must also look abroad because of the affluence at home compared to abroad. A person living in the United States may make upwards of one hundred thousand dollars a year. In fact, according to U.S. Census Bureau, “[i]n 1992, 99.1 percent of households reported having a refrigerator, and 99.0 percent of households reported having a stove” (Rogers). In today’s society it is expected that one be entitled to such “necessities” while other parts of the world just want to be entitled to a full meal. Not only do Americans feel entitled to certain niceties, but also to a good wage. The current federal minimum wage is $5.15. This means that in one hour a person working the lowest job in America will make more the 500% of the money that someone working a full day in the Horn of Africa. In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that, “[t]he median household income–the point at which half make more and half make less– was $46,326" (Ohlemacher). The United States cannot justify giving aid at home when the opportunities are so numerous. The efforts of this country would instead be well served in foreign affairs. In addition to the immense wealth at home, people continue to search for excuses not to help abroad. A recent study showed that, “according to the government, American families have never earned more income, spent less on necessities or enjoyed a higher standard of living than they do right now” (Anderson, Lisa). Overall it becomes clearly evident that the quality of life in the United States at this moment is so great that not sending aid abroad cannot be justified. The critics of foreign aid must back down and realize that there are people in greater need elsewhere in the world than compared to at home.
Meanwhile a person living in Africa is working longer hours and struggling to simply cover his family’s head. All over the world there is vast poverty. Imagine trying to live off only a dollar a day. That would hardly buy a sandwich OR a drink in the United States. Poverty rates are so high in Third World countries that even the most basic needs go unfilled. While 99 percent of United States citizens enjoy a refrigerator and a stove, the impoverished of the world look for their next meal. While the United States has a large average income, over one sixth of the world’s population must make ends meet with a single dollar. In the United States, poor sanitation is not an issue. However, world wide, “Roughly 2 billion people lack access to sanitary latrines” (Canon). These horrific images fail to even be fathomed in today’s world. People complain when a rest stop is too far away on a highway but these same people fail to think of the billions of people who have never had a bathroom to use. Today’s society is far removed from troubles like these but yet in parts of the world these nightmares are realities. Poverty is so bad in some areas that foreign aid cannot even help them yet. The reality is that many international food agencies have reported that, “[i]nternational aid workers say no feeding center has been set up in Denan because the town of 7,000 lacks clean water with which to mix the children’s food into gruel” (England). So many stories from all over the world are constantly broadcast on the news and published in magazines. It has reached a point where people are almost numbed by the sheer horror of these people’s standard of living. Yet this country continues to take a stance of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ when it comes to foreign affairs. As mentioned before, the money available to these people is excruciatingly low. According to CARE USA, “[i]n a country [Ethiopia] with one of the lowest per-capita incomes in the world, where the average person makes $99 a year and 80 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, most cannot afford to invest in seeds, tools, livestock, and other necessities for food production” (Alter). With a lack of money comes a lack of food. The absence of money creates fallow fields and these fallow fields keep their stomachs empty. Not only does the absence of money lead to an empty stomach, but also an empty hope. The United States is a very gifted nation that has been blessed with much affluence. It now becomes the duty of the government and its citizens to reach the helping hand abroad.
The biggest factor that pushes the United States to look abroad is the absolute absence of food in some areas, known as a famine. Hunger is an enemy that knows no bounds. It does not discriminate or single out; it comes without warning and leaves its mark forever. Imagine going without food for a meal, then two meals, a day, two days and maybe more. All around the world people are crying out for help and most do not know when or where their next meal will come from. There is no food to eat, no livestock to sell, and nothing to trade with. It is a miserable existence and there is no end in sight. The internet is full of pictures of emaciated human beings that look like they have just stepped out of Auschwitz. The horrifying reality is that these are modern day people who are wasted away to nothing more than skin and bones. According to the associate press, “[a]lmost 40 million Africans–more than Texas’ population–are short of food, left to rely on aid to stave off hunger and even starvation” (Tomlinson). 40 million people are left to rely on only aid to sustain them. In times of crisis these numbers rise even higher. It is hard to imagine that people are going to bed hungry, waking up hungry, and living hungry. The United States has never know times like these and it therefore becomes the international duty of the United States to aid these people. In times like these the people are stripped of their dignity, hopes and lives. Many live the lives that only enter the American mind in the worst of nightmares. One such story is that of Madar Heeban Munsal:
[she] could only carry two of her children on the 80-mile walk from her village to a makeshift feeding center in the southeastern Ethiopian outpost of Gode. With no water, her other two barefoot sons collapsed on the sweltering trek. For miles, she dragged their unconscious bodies, shriveled by starvation, along the dirt road past numerous cattle carcasses. Soon, they both died, and she stopped to dig two small graves. Now at a feeding center run by an Ethiopian aid group, she is not sure if her youngest boy, still severely malnourished, will survive. ‘I’m helpless,’ she says. (Whitelaw)
The sheer atrocities that are sweeping Africa are almost unbearable. In the United States, a parent’s worst nightmare is to witness children of their own die. For people living in Third World countries, this occurrence is a regular reality. The horror does not end here though. The United State Department has announced that, “in the six countries around the Horn, about 15 million [more] people are at the risk of famine” (Anderson). The only answer to this increasingly difficult problem is an increase in the role of the United States in foreign aid. No comparison can be made between the poverty at home compared to abroad. For this reason the United States must concentrate its efforts abroad.
Of everyone affected by hunger, children are neglected the most. Due to their position in society, they are often the last ones to eat. The youth of these nations are struggling just to make it from one day to the next. In fact, “[t]his past Thanksgiving, while millions of Americans sat at a table overflowing with food, more than thirty children died each minute around the world due to hunger” (Mousseau). Thirty children a minute means that one child dies every three seconds. To breathe in and out takes about three seconds in and of itself. Every breath one takes means that somewhere a child takes his last breath. The future is grim for these young children and there is no end to the misery. Parents who cannot provide food for an entire family must almost pick who eats so that some may live. It is a horrible fate for a parent to choose what child lives and what child wastes away in front of their eyes. The lives of the survivors are forever scarred as well. Many of these malnourished children suffer brain damage and growth defects. In a world ruled by primal instincts, survival of the fittest becomes the ruling factor. Children as young as five years old and sometimes even younger are left to find their own source of food. This has contributed to the sharp increase in mortality rates, infant mortality and a factor of almost 1 in 5 children dying before the age of five. Unfortunately if direct action does not take affect quickly, the window of opportunity may close. A World Vision nutritionist, Dr. Janet-Marie Huddle, stated that:
The number of children under six at the orphanages, known as
children’s centres, has doubled in recent months, she says, ‘This
tells us there is an increase in the number of children abandoned
because their families can no longer feed them. At a centre in the town
of Sariwon, 35 children out of 250 have died this year, including 15
since April...Bone-skinny tots lie listlessly on small beds, having no toys
nor any energy to play. ‘There was one boy of 14 months who weighed
just more than he should have at birth,’ remembers Huddle. ‘It was like
holding a leaf’ (Morris).
These stories bring vivid images to mind. Images of helpless children dying without parents, family, or love in their lives. This is the horrible truth that has beset the Third World countries and only foreign intervention can help. Many people believe that hunger is only an issue in the far away countries but this is not the case. In Creel, Mexico, “Marcelino will be 2 in March, yet at 11 pounds, he weighs as little as a 3-month old baby. He is lethargic, barely moving his willowy limbs while lying in a hospital bed. His skin is loose and wrinkled, his belly bloated” (Watson). Hunger knows now limits and now knocks at the door of the United States’ southern neighbors. The sad reality is that if the United States does not get involved, the rest of the world may not either and if the United States does not get involved now, then it may never happen. How many more children must die before the critics of foreign aid stop their selfish hoarding of America’s wealth and start to look abroad? Only help from the wealthiest country on Earth can stop these atrocities and now is the time to act.
Due to all the evidence, it becomes clearly evident that the United States must look abroad with foreign aid rather than at home. This duty rests on the shoulders of the United States because of world neglect, affluence, and famine. All throughout the world people live in poverty and have no way out. In the United States, poverty can be accredited to lack of effort. As the United States moves forward into the future, it must not fall victim to neglect. According to Stefan Lovgren, “[a]s aid groups get better at predicting and preventing famine, they could become victims of their own success. For their funding, aid groups rely on government and private donors, who in turn are motivated primarily by media coverage of disasters. But with fewer scenes of mass misery to attract the press, preventive missions could be to fund” (Whitelaw). Therefore it becomes the citizens’ job to take an increased measure of devotion to the task that remains before them in order to establish a world free of poverty and hunger.