We used to think that hunger and poverty continued to exist simply for the lack of food and resources. Liv Ullman brilliantly shows that we no longer believe this simplistic explanation (“Poverty Is Daily Disaster for Millions,” Editorial Page, Oct. 8). Hunger persists for the lack of economic opportunity and because we are hampered by old ideas that no longer work. The most crucial and far-reaching work for us to do is to break down these old ideas and to put them to rest.
The Child Survival Revolution is breaking new ground in our way of living on the planet. This marvelously effective project presses us to see all children as a natural, global resource. Out of our attention to the riveting phenomenon of famine, we focus on emergency relief of the obvious suffering. But all can see that this is strictly short term and will not eliminate the deep-seated chronic, persistent hunger which lies at the roots of famine.
To end hunger and poverty, we ought to go all out to develop ways for people to improve their lives. The solutions include literacy, rights for women, universal immunization, oral rehydration therapy, roads to markets, land reform, effective and appropriate technologies, irrigation, improved varieties of seed, small low-interest loans for microenterprises, education, job training, conservation techniques, and a host of other methods to improve livelihoods which are well-known to us. There is also plenty of room for new developments and inventions.
The Hunger Project estimates that global hunger can be eliminated with a sustained investment of just $19 billion per year over a period of one decade. This amounts to a small fraction of the world military budget. Last August, on ABC Nightline, before an audience of several million viewers, House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) made a startling proposal to four ranking members of the Soviet Politburo: Let’s reduce our defense spending by 10% on both sides and form a joint project to eliminate hunger in the Third World. To my amazement, the Soviets endorsed the idea, wholeheartedly.
Let’s do it! Let’s have the United States and the Soviets cut military spending by one-tenth, together, verified, and put the money into eliminating the needless deaths of some 15 to 20 million children per year. By the time we turn around, we will have ended the greatest scourge of all time, hunger. This astonishing opportunity for mankind is pounding on our door.