By Bhikkhu Bodhi
5 million kids
die annually from
hunger, malnutrition, and hunger-related illnesses.
That means a child is dying every 5 seconds.
The Number One Killer
What is the number one killer in the world today? Is it HIV/AIDS? War? Tuberculosis or malaria? No, the number one killer is hunger and malnutrition.
Hunger takes 25,000 lives each day. That amounts to close to 10 million lives every year; this means a Holocaust and a half annually. Almost 60% of these lives are children: a yearly toll of over 5 million kids; 13,500 children each day; a child every five seconds. And so little is needed to stop this killer in its tracks.
Why Is Hunger Still So Widespread?
About 900 million people around the world suffer from hunger. This means almost one-sixth of the world’s population faces hunger everyday, more than all the people in the U.S., Canada, and the European Union combined.
Yet, ironically, hunger does not exist because we lack food or the resources to grow food. Natural disasters, drought, war, land degradation, and poor farming practices play a role, but the most potent factor of all behind hunger is endemic poverty. When people are poor, they can’t purchase the foods they need; or if they can buy food, they can’t get enough healthy food, food rich in health-sustaining nutrients.
Poverty sets in motion a vicious cycle. Poverty breeds hunger, which leads to illness, unemployment, and early death. And when a parent dies prematurely, the family sinks into deeper poverty and into more insistent hunger.
Yet in today’s world, poverty and hunger are not inevitable. They persist, not because we lack the technologies or expertise, but because we lack the collective will, the imagination, and the compassionate intent to bring poverty to an end.
To put an end to poverty and global hunger would take just a small fraction of what we spend on military operations and weapons of destruction. The abolition of global poverty would eliminate glaring economic disparities and thereby make us all safer. It would usher in an era of joy the likes of which we can scarcely imagine. It would bring inexpressible joy as we recognize our real status as brothers and sisters with the same origins, facing a common destiny on the same planet.
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