Hunger, a worldwide danger

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Chinmay Prasun Biswas :

“Hunger is the best sauce in the world” – this line was written by Miguel de Cervantes in Part 2 of his famous Spanish novel Don Quixote, published in 1615.

Along the passage of time this line has become a proverb meaning everything tastes best when someone is hungry.

Similar Bengali proverb says that a hungry tiger eats paddy also.

It is undeniable that food is essential for living but it is more glaring that in many places food is scarce and hunger is the worst burner all over the world since time immemorial.

Stephen O’Brien, the UN Security Council’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said in a statement in June, 2021 that hunger and famine are major threats to more than 40 million people in 43 countries around the world.

Without collective effort people would die of starvation and disease.

He called for the immediate release of a 4.4 billion dollar emergency fund for Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northern Nigeria.

He also called for a continuous and safe humanitarian operation to protect the four countries from this terrible condition

A long-running conflict between two warring factions is continuing in South Sudan.

As an outcome of this man-made crisis around 6.5 million people are under extreme famine there.

Similarly, 50% (62 lakh) Somalians are suffering from malnutrition and are under threat of death due to hunger and disease.

2.7 million people in Kenya are under deplorable conditions.

This number was apprehended to reach 4 million by April, 2022.

In a statement issued in June, 2022 the agency informed that due to violence and lack of alertness to climate change, the global hunger situation has been deteriorating since 2016.

About 89 crore people in the world go to bed hungry every night.

Reportedly, 1/3rd population of Afghanistan do not get minimum food.

Food security and hunger situation became more fragile due to the price hike of basic food items.

The agency also expressed concern about the number of people dying from malnutrition in the world.

An emergency 600 crore dollar fund has been demanded to help these countries (report -Al Jazeera).

Against such a terrible backdrop worldwide Bangladesh is in a relatively good position.

Bangladesh has made one-step progress in the fight against hunger.

According to the World Hunger Index released by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Bangladesh’s score has come down to 19.1 points from 20.4 last year.

As a result, considering the level of hunger, Bangladesh has risen from severe to tolerable.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) or World Appetite indicator is prepared on 4 standards – rate of malnutrition, rate of underweight children below 5 years in comparison to age, rate of underweight of children of 5 years and rate of mortality of children below 5 years.

Zero (0) is the best score on this index and 100 is the worst.

If the score increases, the hunger situation worsens and vice versa.

Position of countries in this score is grossly divided into 5 steps to indicate the food and nutrition situation.

50+ score – extremely dangerous, 35- 49.9 dangerous, 20-34.9 – severe, 10 – 19.9 -tolerable (Bangladesh is within this range), below 9.99 – critical.

Bangladesh has improved in the appetite index also securing 65th position out of 108 countries in 2021 which was 76th out of 116 countries in 2020.

As reported by International Food Policy Research Institute, Bangladesh has made good progress in hunger index since 2012.

From severe (26.6) Bangladesh has improved to 19.1(tolerable).

Child malnutrition rate has also dropped in recent decades from 51.1% in 2000 to 26% in 2019.

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The report says, “These improvements have been made possible by the government’s firm commitment, determination and action to tackle malnutrition as part of Bangladesh’s way to achieve the status of a developed country by 2041.”

Bangladesh is ahead of India (26.5) and Pakistan (24.8) in terms of position in 2021, equal to Nepal but behind Sri Lanka (18).

War-devastated Afghanistan (28.3.) is at the bottom.

India is placed at risk along with Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, the Central African Republic, Yemen, Burundi, Comoros, South Sudan and Syria.

This information has been given in an index published in October, 2021.

The index was prepared by an Irish charity Concern World Aid and a German organisation Welt Hunger Hilfe.

George Laria-Adjei, South Asia Director of UNICEF, said – “ManySri Lankan families have given up regular meals as the cost of cooking materials has gone beyond control.

Children go to sleep hungry.

They don’t know whether they will get food the next day or not.”

The point of hunger has been mentioned in Bengali literature in different ways.

“We have terrible hunger here.”

A coachman of a horse-drawn carriage uttered this sentence in a story Baire (Outside) by Hasan Azizul Haque.

A group of urban tourists came to visit Shilaidaha Kuthibari probably to enjoy a picnic.

The coachman cooked rice and chicken.

As the group sat down on the lawn to eat, a huge crowd of hungry people surrounded them.

In front of those hungry eyes it became impossible for the urban party to enjoy the taste of smelling food.

Long ahead of it Kazi Nazrul Islam, in his poem Amar Kaifiat (My Defence, compiled in 1926) wrote -“a hungry child does not want Swaraj, he wants only some rice and salt, fire burns in his tiny stomach.”

This is the cruel reality that everything is futile without food.

Teenage poet Sukanta Bhattacharya compared the full moon to a half-burnt bread.

Rabindranath has written – we want food, want life, want free air, we want to enjoy health and shine bright.

Since 1991World Food Day is observed all over the world to increase awareness, address hunger and ensure food for all.

It holds a theme every year.

Theme of this year is – Water is life, water is food.

Leave no one behind.

This day reminds us that food is a fundamental right for all but hunger continues.

Poor people do not understand the food index.

They need food.

Statistical position may be a point of satisfaction for state-authority for some time but it never fills hungry bellies.

We must remember that hunger provokes anger and angry men do not remain silent for a long time.

One day they must turn violent.

Violent men are certainly dangerous and dangerous people can cause any disaster.

From the French Revolution evidence is abundant in history.

(The writer is a former
Commissioner of Taxes.)