Developing strategies to end hunger

David Beckmann talks hunger on Bill Moyers Journal

Bread for the World Institute President David Beckmann was a guest on Bill Moyers Journal last Friday. David was asked to view and respond to an excellent short documentary on food distribution and relief and recovery operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The whole piece provides gripping images of life in the war torn country, and focuses much of its attention on a food distribution program operated by Concern Worldwide. The food program is critical component of humanitarian activities taking part in the country. Currently an estimated 45,000 people are dying each month from hunger and disease. A staggering 70 percent of the population is undernourished, making the DRC one of the most severe hunger hotspots in the world.

David's noted that the affects of hunger in that country are going to create lasting scars in terms of educational attainment, health and human productivity, and economic growth. This last point cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Paul Collier has made the calculation that slow growth increases the likelihood of war (and correspondingly, in his book The Bottom Billion, that "each percentage point added to the growth rate knows off a percentage point" from the risk of war). And since countries emerging from conflict already have a high likelihood of falling back into war, the problem of hunger and its impact on economic growth is all the more critical if the DRC is to exit conflict permanently.


For people reading this blog, Collier's point remains an academic one, but it is also felt viscerally by people on the ground. As Dominic MacSorley, Emergency Director for Concern Worldwide notes in the piece,

deep down, people are still very apprehensive about what the future's going to hold. Because they still don't believe that we have completely turned a corner.
What they're saying is, 'What happens if there isn't enough to eat in the village? Will the guys who carried the guns pick 'em up again?' That's their fear. 'If there isn't enough to eat, somebody will pick up a gun again and take enough to eat.'

David also placed the DRC in the larger context of the hunger and poverty around the world and the kinds of policies and programs that are needed to address the root causes of hunger. In places such as the DRC, it is clear that a long-term commitment by international donors to support the peace process and help the country rebuild are critical. In this wider context, the conversation also touched on the farm bill and Bread's work on this critical piece of legislation. The farm bill will be explored in more depth in next week's Journal and David will again be a guest on the program on April 11 (you can search for local TV listings here). Be sure to check it out!

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