Feed the hunger disaster


Despite what we’ve been told about money, it does have the potential to fix a number of the world’s ills and injustices. Money has the potential to restore and pave a better life for those in need. And, contrary to popular belief, it could possibly also buy happiness — even if only for a limited time.

To a hungry child who wakes up to the daily reality of empty cupboards and a grumbling stomach, the potential amount of happiness money can buy is vast and wide. In this instance even a meagre R10 — which can buy nothing more than a loaf of bread — would unleash pleasure and jubilation, even if for only a day.

But the reality is that money continues to be a problem for millions of people the world over, with perhaps millions more going hungry as a result.

According to a report called The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people is ever-increasing. A whopping 821-million, or one in every nine people, are said to battle with hunger daily.

Another 2018 report — by the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the United Nations World Food Programme — found that an estimated 113-million people in 53 countries experienced acute food insecurity.

Here at home, the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign says 14-million people go to bed hungry daily, with 53% of the nation’s inhabitants experiencing food insecurity.

Despite efforts by the government to support children of unemployed parents by providing a support grant of R380 a month per child, this money is often used to support the entire household, because many of these families rely on nothing else for survival.

The result? According to reports published at the end of last year, more than six million of the country’s children regularly go hungry. This affects their ability to thrive or even to survive.

If food is fuel, then young minds in their formative years need it most. Foundations laid in school are such that young people are able to grow up and live fruitful lives as participants in the economy. But, as the saying goes, you cannot learn on an empty stomach.

This is a situation money could easily rectify. Money may not buy happiness, but it can provide an abundance of hope, security and satiety for millions of hungry children.

With taxpayers already stretched by their monthly deductions and the government purse already dishing out hundreds of millions to needy South Africans in the form of support grants, a call needs to be made to all corporate giants around the world to dig deep into their pockets and assist.

This has been done before. Business leaders have long lent a helping hand when called upon. Just look at the outpouring of philanthropic support after natural disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes or earthquakes in years past. The 2004 Indonesia tsunami, for example, saw an outpouring of $3.12-billion from individuals and private businesses. The media labelled this aid the “largest private response to any natural disaster”.

The most recent such response came after the fire that crippled the Notre-Dame de Paris. As footage of both the fire and the destruction left in its wake filled television screens, big businesses stepped up, pledging large sums of money to see to the cathedral’s reconstruction. According to the media, French billionaires and businesses have already raised more than $700-million to repair the roof, spire and other parts of the building.

This assistance may prove invaluable to the restoration of this historic site, but one can’t help but imagine the difference even half of those financial pledges could make in the lives of just half of the world’s hungry.

Imagine a world in which a hungry child were treated as a disaster. The eventual reward would transform life as we know it.

According to data compiled in 2017 by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action, it costs R578.45 a month to feed a child aged between three and nine years a nutritionally complete diet. Imagine the difference just $1-million could make in the lives of children.

But starting small is perhaps the best way to go. A local fast-food franchise has got the right picture. By asking its many customers who frequent the establishment for nothing more than R2 with each of their purchases, it has raised more than R492-million over the past 10 years, which has given hope, and a much-needed daily meal, to more than 120 000 children.

The Tiger Brands Foundation, which provides the first nutritious meal of the day in 92 fee-exempt schools through its in-school breakfast programme, found that in Limpopo, for every R1 invested, about R8.68 of social value is created. For every R1 invested in the Northern Cape, R10.51 of social value is created.

The foundation serves about 63 500 meals on an average school day at a cost of about R2.28 a pupil. Feeding a single pupil throughout the school year costs the foundation less than R500 on average.

If we all rallied together to respond to this disaster, in whatever way we could, the future could be rewritten for millions of children.

As the old adage by Confucius goes: “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” This mountain is for all of us to move.

Eugene Absolom is the executive director at the Tiger Brands Foundation

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Eugene Absolom
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