Yesterday was World Food Day with the year’s theme being ‘social protection and agriculture: Breaking the cycle of rural poverty’. It spotlights the link between ending hunger and food insecurity by enhancing social protection, a key tool in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Education, healthcare and financial support are all forms of social protection which play a major role in ensuring direct access to food or the means to buy it. According to the 2015 State of the Food Security in the World report, social protection programmes play a critical role in the progress of developing countries in achieving hunger targets related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – which recently adopted “zero hunger” as one of the aims.
Yet, around 73% of the world’s population has no access to adequate social protection – and the majority of these people live in the rural areas of developing countries, with many dependent on agriculture for a living.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has exposed some staggering realities which advocates of the globalised capitalist market economic system need to see as a clear warning that unbridle capitalism -- which promotes selfishness and greed -- will destroy itself. The WFP says that on planet earth one in nine people do not have enough food to lead an active, healthy life – that means around 795 million people. In the African continent one person in four is undernourished, poor nutrition causes nearly half of all deaths (45%) in children under the age of five – which is around 3.1 million children every year.
In a world that is moving towards more gender equality WFP has some good news for women. Not so much for the fashionable social elite who still focus on beauty parades and fashion shows, but for the down to earth and hard working rural women. WFP says that if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million. Great news indeed. According to the Global Hunger Index, 52 countries are suffering from serious or alarming levels of hunger, of which the Central African Republic suffers the greatest level of hunger.
In Sri Lanka after about 40 years during which we allowed our country to be flooded with imported junk food, fast foods and processed rubbish, President Maithripala Sirisena this month launched a major national campaign to grow within two years the nutritious food we need in our own country. We hope all parties, religious groups and the private sector will also support the National Government’s initiative to produce our own food, be Lankan and buy Lankan and end our dependence on artificial or counterfeit imported food and food-like substances.
On Thursday, the Daily Mirror focused attention on the need for Sri Lanka to go green with the initiative with the mission to save Mother Nature, starting with green schools as in Singapore. An equally important initiative is for good locally grown nutritious food and we are glad that a major step has been taken by Royal College.
The massive national project, aptly titled ‘Heartbeat,’ is led by Royal’s UNESCO Club and the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA). ‘Heartbeat 2015’, with the vision of promoting healthy living by school students will include educational sessions and a walk on October 24 by representatives from Colombo schools, the President, the Prime Minister and several Cabinet Ministers, most of whom are past pupils. Students will be educated on the subject of drinking clean water, eating healthy food and eliminating the use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances. Principals of some 130 schools and head prefects will also be invited to take part in this programme whereby eventually the children will teach their parents on good food, nutrition and living practices.
This is urgent and important because, as revealed by the GMOA president Dr. Anurudda Padeniya, about 30% of our people are today afflicted by obesity and prone to non-communicable diseases such as chronic heart and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes. Fat lot have we achieved in an era where children are dying before their parents.