When Dwight Eisenhower was asked in 1948 to make a speech on ending child hunger, he invoked the inspiration of D-Day and how America can achieve anything. As we remember the D-Day invasion (June 6, 1944) by U.S. and allied forces, think of all the sacrifice to free Europe from Nazi German occupation.
Think also of the complexity of the mission, which was commanded by Eisenhower. A massive operation, including humanitarian aid, followed the D-Day landings. My father was part of that Allied force, clearing mines on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, for fuel tanks so vehicles could move inland.
As the fighting against Nazi Germany continued, French civilians were needing food and other aid. War always leads to displacement and hunger. Children were the most in need. The Allies were prepared with Civil Affairs units to move into the countryside as part of the invasion.
Not only was military might needed to liberate France and all of Europe, but so, too, was humanitarian aid. World War II left children hungry and stunted and it took many years of aid to bring about some stability. The Marshall Plan brought peace and reconstruction four years after D-Day.
Today, we face the biggest challenge of global hunger since World War II. We are going to need the same determination to overcome a hunger crisis that has become even more grave because of the coronavirus.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) is warning of the terrible consequences of the coronavirus worldwide. WFP director David Beasley recently told the UN Security Council “we are not only facing a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children, face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the specter of famine a very real and dangerous possibility.”
We should expand the McGovern-Dole program to feed hungry kids and use nutrition to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Many schools have been closed because of the virus, meaning kids cannot access free school meals such as those sponsored by McGovern-Dole. Charities that implement McGovern-Dole like WFP, Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services are switching to alternative delivery of this food which poor kids desperately need.
Because of the coronavirus school closings, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is providing the McGovern-Dole food through take home rations in Sierra Leone and other countries.
Daniel Mumuni of CRS says, “Throughout Sierra Leone, many families are already living on razor’s edge due to entrenched poverty. Even without the pandemic, tens of thousands of children get their only meal of the day through our McGovern-Dole school feeding program. The spread of COVID-19 into these communities, as well as the restrictions on movement, is pushing these families even further to the brink. It’s our job to make sure that they don’t suffer in silence.”
CRS is also feeding school children in conflict-torn Mali and Burkina Faso with McGovern-Dole funding. The Lead the Way On Hunger Campaign by CRS asks citizens to write Congress about feeding the hungry.
The Food for Peace program must see a funding increase, too. We have to keep up the fight against global hunger. Nutrition is vital for impoverished nations to resist the disease.
As we face the worst hunger crisis since World War II, we must also step up our hunger relief programs.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services on the book Ending World Hunger.
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