In July of 2013, Rose Aguilar wrote a wonderful article for al-Jazeera, discussing the dire hunger crisis prevailing in the United States. In her article, she brought back a memory of something people had long forgotten, an event that so outraged the American public that the government was temporarily forced to respond with more humane policies. That event was a 1968 CBS special hour-long documentary called Hunger in America, in which viewers literally watched a hospitalized child die of starvation, a similar situation in the largest economy which has been inflicting hunger around the world. The then president, Nixon responded because the public outrage left him no choice, but Reagan quickly dismantled those improvements.
When Reagan came to power in 1980, there were 200 food banks in the US; today there are more than 40,000, all overwhelmed with demand and forced to ration their dispersals. Before 1980, one out of every 50 Americans was dependent on food stamps. Today, it is one out of four. Before Reagan, there were 10 million hungry Americans; today there are more than 50 million and the number is increasing with the passage of time.
A substantial part of the Great Transformation included not only tax cuts and other benefits for the wealthy, but a simultaneous massive reduction in budgets for social programs – in spite of the fact that Reagan and the secret government were creating the conditions that would desperately require those same social programs.
That 50 million hungry Americans today includes the 25% of all children in the US who go to sleep hungry every night. About 25% of the American population today cannot buy sufficient food to remain healthy, with most of these being hungry for at least three months during each year. It is so bad that many college students have resorted to what is called “dumpster-diving” – looking in garbage bins for edible food.
According to a WFP and FAO investigation, food shortages and food insecurity deteriorate in areas affected by conflict. The most critical situation is recorded in Yemen, plagued by wars and epidemics. Syria and Lebanon are also of concern. Food insecurity and famine in conflict-affected countries, especially in the Middle East, continue to worsen in the face of growing problems in the delivery and distribution of aid to the population.
The latest report prepared by the UN agencies focuses on food insecurity in 16 countries in the world: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon (Syrian refugees), Liberia, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, in addition to the Lake Chad Basin. The joint FAP-WFP survey shows that in over half of these nations, a quarter or more of the population live in crisis situations or in levels of emergency regarding hunger.
Economically destroyed, socially unstable and now hungry, Venezuela is undergoing turbulent times. Known as “Saudi Arabia” of South America, today Venezuela more closely resembles Syria. Economically destroyed and socially unstable, the country is now fighting an ever more alarming specter hunger. In the slum of Petare in the metropolitan area of the capital, Caracas, refrigerators remain empty, supermarket queues grow longer and the necessity of procuring something to eat drives young people to violence.
Many come together in armed gangs, plunder houses and shops, rob food from passersby and are paid in foodstuffs. Unsustainable inflation has caused prices to double week after week; today, nine out of 10 Venezuelans do not feel they have the sufficient resources to buy food. For some time now the government has been trying to remedy ‘Clap plan’, which distributes food to civilians. But this does not seem to be enough and hunger is now one of the greatest threats to Venezuela’s fragile national security.