“925 million people do not have enough to eat – more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union combined.”
(Source: FAO news release, 14 September 2010).
Standing almost anywhere in your city amid gilt-edged, fancy, Christmas-themed decorations and ornaments it is safe to say that time of the year has come again. With the start of December we slowly build up our Christmas spirit by living the moment; all the way from gift shopping to putting up the Christmas tree. All to make ourselves allegedly feel what this holiday is all about. However, I couldn’t help but wonder about some other, perhaps forgotten, issues. I am talking about a problem a lot of us are ignoring. Indeed, you’re bound to have guessed by now. While we enjoy our family reunions, and Christmas-themed parties, along with playing in the snow and kissing under mistletoes, I strive to shed a light on another population out there. I am talking about hundreds of millions of people out there for whom the Holidays are just another couple of days to be survived.I couldn’t help but wonder, how more joyful is the world, and how exactly merrier will their Christmas be?
10.9 million Children under five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths;
(Source: The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF, 2007)
Last night was the beginning of a three-day festival in the city centre, in the name of Christmas holidays, and with my next-door neighbors going ballistic with their decorations I had to put up a good fight. The city was hardly recognizable at night in its shiny costume of joy and thousands of people having a good time. As I circulated among the crowd, I was overwhelmed by the number of temporary newly-opened shops around the city. It seems each had a story of its own; from the best decorations to the strangest toys, all the way up to the finest wines of Italy… just about anything that would lure the public. And, yes, there was food, too.
Lack of Vitamin A kills a million infants a year
(Source: Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency, a Global Progress Report, UNICEF)
Despite it not being an easy task to navigate amid such an intensely populated area, I still managed to visit 80% of all the stores. On my way to the other side of yet another highly-populated street, a rather unique, and different from the rest, store caught my attention. It wasn’t as colorful, or as decorated as any of the ones I have been seeing all night long. It simply said: Médecins Sans Frontières.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a private international association. The association is made up mainly of doctors and health sector workers and is also open to all other professions which might help in achieving its aims. It provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions. (Source: doctorswithoutborders.org)
I took a look at what they had to offer and fell in love with one of their shirts. Naturally, I kept on walking since my purpose that night was to ‘try and find something to decorate my Christmas tree’. I couldn’t have been any blinder. And during what seemed to be a painful walk back home I realized something. It suddenly hit me. I realized it is not how much decorations you have up your tree that defines your Christmas spirit. It is the amount of Christmas insideeach one of us. Also, I needed a new shirt.
Women make up a little over half of the world’s population, but they account for over 60 percent of the world’s hungry.
(Source: Strengthening efforts to eradicate hunger…, ECOSOC, 2007)
This time of the year, make an exception, if you haven’t already. Take a moment to think of those going to bed hungry every night; those for whom each day is a battle of survival, if not of hunger then of disease. Think of those whom the media hardly ever chooses to portrait, despite needing publicity the most; those who have to wake up every single day and face their harsh lives. And last but not least, think of the fact that every 5 seconds a child dies of hunger. If you can, donate. If you can’t, help us spread the word. I, myself, have dedicated my time to help make a difference. You can too. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the powerful feeling of buying something and knowing it will go on and help out so many people out there. Besides, I look so good in that shirt anyway.
There are many (legitimate) ways to help and make a difference:
Free Rice is an educational website where you can answer fun questions, and for each correct answer 10 grains of rice are donated to the hungry.
United Nations’ World Food Programme delivers food to the hungry worldwide and helps prevent future hunger and raise awareness. There is also a ‘Get Involved’ section.
The Hunger Site donates 1.1 cup of food to the hungry for each time you click on the yellow button.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières helps fight epidemic diseases worldwide.
Merry Christmas everyone, and have a lovely New Year. And remember, you can make a difference.