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Hunger Crisis Goes Far Beyond Food, Says Panel at World Food Prize

If no improvements are made by the end of the year, it’s likely that 600,000 children will die as a result from hunger, according to Michael Klosson.

Klosson, the vice president for policy and humanitarian response of Save Our Children, was one of the members of the “Hunger, Conflict, and Peace” panel at The World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue that discussed the severity of hunger on a global level.

It is “gut wrenching” to see families in such distress, he says after a visit to South Sudan where he saw children with clear signs of malnutrition. Save Our Children aims to come into these countries and provide resources and partnership with the government staff already in place.

“It's really tough,” Klosson says. “It's life changing. But at the same time, it's how you see people dealing with it that is really quite inspiring.”

People are dealing with hunger-related problems all over the world, but the problem extends beyond malnutrition. Without a steady supply of food, terrorist organizations are taking advantage of the situation by using food as a way to recruit.

“When food is provided in bulk-type form and distributed, we know there are transparency issues and accountability issues; therefore, it doesn’t always get to where it needs to be,” says Lt. General Kip Ward. “Those who have control of that get to dictate where it goes and use it as a weapon.”

Hunger’s Impact on Terrorism

Ward has seen and fought against this while serving as the commander of U.S. Africa Command. In 2009, he was in Ghana with a woman and her five children at a co-op. She wanted to increase her crop yields, so she could make enough food to feed her children. She was conscious of the threats of outsiders coming in and influencing her and her sons, which she was able to successfully prevent, partly due to the co-op.

“Those sort of things reduce the impact of those destabilizing back doors that they would have by those who use food as a weapon for purposes not supportive of anyone's interest,” Ward says.

Food Availabilty Doesn’t Always Mean Food Accessibility

Farmers continue to do their part by producing and exporting food throughout the world and with their focus on sustainable agriculture. Yet, in many countries, access to available food is a problem, even when people are trying to get it where it needs to go.

Nancy Lindborg, president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, saw first-hand the problem with food accessibility.

Through her work with the U.S. Institute of Peace, an independent institution founded by Congress to provide practical solutions for preventing and resolving violent conflict around the world, Lindborg saw the Islamist militant group al-Shabab prevent access to food in Somalia. In Syria, terrorists prevented food from coming into the country.

To combat this, Lindborg and her colleagues began working with the market system and traders to get the food in ways humanitarians couldn’t, like in Syria where she worked with the bakeries and used local partners to provide food.

Lindborg says we should be pleased with the U.S. government’s response to action, but the next huge step is figuring out ways to prevent this hunger epidemic.

“I think the U.S. government has extraordinary capabilities with the ability to make a very important difference in the lives of people and countries,” Lindborg says.

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