Guest commentary: Eliminating child starvation — whose ‘response’ ‘ability’ is it?
In 1988, the year I was born, Nicaragua started going downhill and downhill fast. You would think by 2020 things would have gotten better but they haven’t. In fact, 2020 conditions make 1988 look like a beautiful spring morning with a light breeze.
In 1988, Eustakio Alvarado was 54 and said he had served five years in the militia to be assured a job as a street sweeper — a job he said barely paid him enough for one meal a day, let alone paid enough to feed his four children. In return for the employment as a street sweeper, he had to serve as a night watchman two days a week from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. without any payment.
Now ask yourself, in 1988, what were you doing with your time? Were you fighting to obtain food? Scavenging through the dumps to feed your kids? Or were you going to the grocery store where all of our food is neatly shelved and choosing through 1,000s of brands on exactly how you wanted to nourish yourself and your family for the day? Were you fighting for a better future or just fighting not to be hungry?
What are you doing now in 2020? Same thing? Fighting to see how big you can make the number in your bank account grow? How blessed are we that we forget how miserable other countries are? According to Carlos Leonel Arguello, director of the Nicaraguan Health Ministry’s department of hygiene at that time, the government was battling to “contain the deterioration” in the health sector.
“Hospitals crowded with children suffering from diarrhea and malnutrition.” Arguello said. “Roughly 40 percent of Nicaraguan children younger than 6 years old are suffering horribly from malnutrition.”
They are just babies and it’s worse now in 2020. Children are dying from lack of nourishment. Few children in America go hungry. No child here is dying from lack of food.
“Look at these people searching for food, just to feed their children,” Arguello added, pointing to a group of scavengers at the landfill. “If they find a rotten tomato, they’ll take it. It’s a terrible misery. I’m 75 years old and I’ve never seen Nicaragua like this.”
At present, teachers make about $20 a month, and the average worker’s salary comes to about $2 a week.
Could you live on $20 a month? Right now? How much would you have to sacrifice? Let’s think deeper. Could you keep yourself nourished for $2 a week? Could you nourish your children on that salary? Would you have as much if you were born in Nicaragua? Or is what you have due to being born in America? Did you have a say in where you were born? If the tables were turned, would you want someone to fight for you? Not belittling your current contributions to society but just because this isn’t happening in our community doesn’t mean it’s not happening in someone else’s.
How miserable would you be right now if you couldn’t spend at least $100 a day? How wonderful it is that we live in such a blessed land that we are afforded the privilege to be wasteful with our food, overpay on practically everything and irritated with traffic in our climate-controlled vehicles, while these children have to walk 5 to 10 miles each way with no shoes to the dump just in hopes to find some rotten food to eat for the day.
No wonder so many of these children are walking thousands of miles to get to our borders with hopes of getting inside our country. That isn’t the solution my friends. The solution is to take the food to them.
We live in a land that has so much food that we must restrict ourselves on how much we can eat daily and then give it a name called “dieting.” Let that sink in.
Happiness is not found by swiping your card consistently and spending money on yourself. It is giving fully of yourself to something much greater than yourself.
This Christmas, as we roll into 2020, I would like to challenge each of you to not just increase your level of living but to increase your level of giving. To recognize that there is a solution to feeding malnourished children worldwide, but it first requires gratitude for what you have and then giving what you don’t need. Therein you’ll find true happiness.
Robert S. Haycock is the founder of Nourish Our Youth, a Roaring Fork Nonprofit aimed at eliminating child starvation worldwide by 2025. For more information, go to NourishOurYouth.org.
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