Trying to Feed a Billion People

EACH day, a billion people do not eat enough to satisfy their hunger. Yet, this atrocious condition should not exist, according to the United Nations.

“You have said that your first priority is the eradication of extreme poverty.” So spoke United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on September 8, 2000, to an assembly of the world’s most powerful men and women. They had come together for the United Nations Millennium Summit, during which several of those leaders made frank comments on the problems of the world’s poor. “Extreme poverty is an affront to humanity,” said the vice president of Brazil. The prime minister of Great Britain went even further when he said: “There is a dismal record of failure in Africa on the part of the developed world that shocks and shames our civilization.”

Those two speakers made plain that the nations had disgraced themselves by failing to do what they could to feed starving humans. As proof of their desire to improve living conditions for all on earth, those attending the summit committed themselves to action in an eight-part resolution that included the following: “We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. . . . We resolve further: To halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.”

What progress has been made toward that noble goal since September 2000?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In 2003 the Global Governance Initiative of the World Economic Forum began assessing what had been done to achieve the goals outlined in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The official report, released on January 15, 2004, states: “For all of its most important goals, the world is failing utterly to put forward the needed effort.” Regarding hunger, the report states: “The problem is not an absolute shortage of food in the world—there is enough to go around. The problem is that available food and adequate nutrition do not get to those who lack money.”

On the overall problem of poverty, the report says: “The responsibility for the lacklustre performance now lies mainly with governments, rich and poor. But a global economic system designed by the wealthy is too often stacked against the poorest. The wealthy countries, despite much rhetoric, show little interest in reforming that system or in substantially increasing development assistance targeted to the poorest.” In the face of this reproof, the politicians continue to debate rather than act and the governments continue to maneuver, each for its own advantage. Meanwhile, the world’s poor continue to have empty stomachs.

A fact sheet from the World Economic Forum, entitled “From Aspiration to Action,” warns that “vast swaths of humanity will face increasing hunger unless international trade policies are changed, national policies focus on hunger and successful local efforts are multiplied.” And who needs to make better policies and more “successful local efforts”? The very governments that in 2000 publicly declared their determination to improve the lot of all humanity.

One broken promise may lead to disappointment; several broken promises lead to distrust. By not keeping their word to care for the poor, the world’s governments have reaped distrust. A mother of five living in a poor Caribbean country is able to feed her family one meal a day. She says: “I only care about whether we can eat. It doesn’t matter who’s in power. We’ve never gotten anything from anyone in power.”

The Bible writer Jeremiah said: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) The failure of human governments to solve the problems of the poor confirms that Bible truth.

But there is a Ruler with both the power and the desire needed to solve man’s problems, and the Bible identifies him. When that Ruler takes charge, no one will ever go hungry again.

A Basis for Hope

“To you the eyes of all look hopefully, and you are giving them their food in its season.” (Psalm 145:15) Who is this One who is attentive to man’s need for food? Our Creator, Jehovah God. Although the human race has suffered from famine and other problems for thousands of years, Jehovah has always been interested in people. He has observed the failure of human governments, and his infallible Word, the Bible, shows that he will soon replace them with his own government.

Jehovah says: “I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:6) This proclamation from the highest authority in the universe is cause for hope. While human rulers have often failed to help their subjects, Jesus Christ, as the King appointed by God, will bring benefits never seen by earth’s poorest people.

Through this King, Jehovah will feed all hungry ones. “The Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food,” says Isaiah 25:6 in the New American Bible. Under God’s Kingdom in the hands of Christ, people will never lack good food, no matter where they live. Regarding Jehovah, the Bible says: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.”—Psalm 145:16.

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“There is a dismal record of failure in Africa on the part of the developed world that shocks and shames our civilization.”—British Prime Minister Tony Blair

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ETHIOPIA: In this land some 13 million people depend on food aid. The child shown above is one of them

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INDIA: These students receive food at school

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Top: © Sven Torfinn/Panos Pictures; bottom: © Sean Sprague/Panos Pictures