Egypt Again Shines Spotlight on Global Food Crisis





William Lambers is an author and historian who partnered with the World Food Programme on the book "Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World" (2009).

The protests in Egypt show the debilitating effect of high food prices on a society.  The struggle for basic food though goes far beyond Egyptian borders.

Worldwide, there are nearly 1 billion people who suffer from hunger.  We can no longer ignore their plight.

Josette Sheeran, head of the UN World Food Programme, says, "We are entering an era of food volatility and disruptions in supplies.  When it comes to food, the margins between stability and chaos are perilously thin."

It was Egyptians calling for bread in their protest chants.  Their's is a country too long suffering from hunger, malnutrition.

Back in 1946, when another serious food crisis had gripped the planet, Egypt was also in the spotlight for a time.  It was April 1946 and former president Herbert Hoover was making a worldwide trip surveying food needs of many suffering nations.

Hoover was a food ambassador appointed by President Harry Truman.  A food ambassador is a problem solver at the highest level.  Part of Hoover's problem in 1946 was finding enough food supplies to keep hundreds of millions of people from starving in the aftermath of World War II.

Egypt was one country where Hoover found some help as he stopped in Cairo.

Hoover wrote, "The minister of agriculture pointed out that their harvest would arrive before those of Greece and Italy and, if they could have an assurance of a later replacement, they could make a loan of food to those countries."

The cooperation shown by Egypt during Hoover's visit was a demonstration of what food diplomacy can do.  It's about nations working together to feed the hungry, and food after World War II was crucial to winning the peace.

While in Cairo, Hoover made a radio address where he stated, "If every source of supplies will do its utmost, we can pull the world through this most dangerous crisis."

In that same speech Hoover also focused on the basics, like something as simple as bread, which was in jeopardy to many.  He warned,  “To reduce the bread ration is a symbol of calamity.  It is now the symbol of the life of nations. "

Today, for many people around the world, getting that bread can take a great deal of their income.  In fact, the United Nations estimates that in developing countries, the poor can spend 60-80 percent of their monthly income buying food.

We have plans to fight hunger.  There is the World Food Programme (WFP), which depends on the very cooperation Hoover found in Egypt.  If a number of nations contribute donations to WFP, then hunger can be attacked effectively.

Right now, WFP is facing major funding shortages in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Haiti and numerous other countries.  Without this funding, safety net programs for those impacted by high food prices cannot take place.

Low funding limits child feeding programs and also those aimed at boosting agricultural production.  School feeding programs, which fight hunger and boost education, are not given much support worldwide.  Yet food for education is what every nation needs.

When it comes to prioritizing foreign policy dollars, food assistance and development are often left with relative scraps.  What you see now is a result.  Nations cannot get the short and long-term help they need to feed their hungry populations.

And if we continue on this path, you will see many more discontented people.  Whether it will always erupt into a protest like in Egypt remains to be seen.  But who now can rightfully ignore the problem that threatens peace and security more than any other:  hunger, malnutrition and lack of access to food.

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