There’s no vaccine for world hunger – but we can make a difference if we act now

·3-min read
‘I spent my early years in Somalia and have seen first-hand the impact that hunger and malnutrition has on countries most affected by poverty’  (REUTERS)
‘I spent my early years in Somalia and have seen first-hand the impact that hunger and malnutrition has on countries most affected by poverty’ (REUTERS)

Imagine waking up each day and wondering if you’ll be able to feed your children. This is the daily harsh reality for thousands of families facing a hunger crisis across the world.

As the world begins to come to terms with the devastation caused by Covid-19, millions of children are on the verge of starvation, brought on by conflict, climate change and the lasting impact of the pandemic.

I spent my early years in Somalia and have seen first-hand the impact that hunger and malnutrition has on countries most affected by poverty. It breaks my heart to know that so many parents in Somalia are struggling to keep their children alive because of the catastrophic impact that things such as conflict and climate change are having on people’s livelihoods, and their ability to access affordable and nutritious food.

As a father of four, I know how it feels to want the best for your family. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to give my children the best start to life and to give them the right food they need to grow up healthy. But the reality is so different for families in Somalia, which right now is facing alarming levels of hunger and food insecurity.

The impact of ongoing conflict – coupled with climate change – in Somalia and its effect on hunger is huge. According to Save the Children, almost half of families in the country don’t have enough food to eat, and further projections suggest a heartbreaking 1.2m children under five are facing acute malnutrition, which can be life threatening without treatment. What that means is mums and dads constantly worrying about finding food just to keep their children alive.

It’s so difficult when people you know and care about are struggling to feed themselves and their families. I’m lucky to have a privileged life here in the UK, so I have been able to support my family back home in Somalia, especially in times of crisis. But despite my best efforts, I think I can always do more to make a difference. We can all do more.

I recently spoke to Save the Children staff in Somalia to find out more about how they’re supporting mothers and their children facing malnutrition. I heard from one mum whose family are only eating one small meal a day; her two sons had been taken to a Save the Children clinic with severe diarrhoea and vomiting caused by malnutrition. Their situation broke my heart.

As well as providing water, nutritious food and medicine to families like hers, living in the poorest and most remote areas of Somalia, the charity is working with local communities to help them develop more sustainable livelihoods so they can maintain a more nutritious diet in the future.

But Somalia is not the only country facing these challenges. In all regions of the world, there are millions of families having to make difficult choices to ensure they have enough to eat, millions more are skipping meals every day or eating food that lacks crucial nutrients. No child should ever go hungry, and combating a global hunger crisis on this scale requires global solutions.

On World Food Day it’s vital world leaders act now to save lives. Nowhere in the world should it be acceptable for a child to be malnourished. The upcoming Nutrition for Growth summit, a legacy of the 2012 Olympics, is an opportunity for the UK government to be a champion for children affected by the global hunger crisis. By making a new commitment to tackle malnutrition, it can help save lives and give millions of children the best possible start in life.

Children have no choice where or when they are born and the situation that they are brought up in. There’s no vaccine for hunger, but there is a solution if we act now. We have the power to change children’s lives for the better and there’s no time to waste.

Sir Mo Farah is an Olympic gold medallist and Save the Children ambassador

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