Cutting world hunger in half

December 02, 1993

When Congress abolished the House Select Committee on Hunger in a fit of reform last spring, its chairman protested in a manner rarely seen on Capitol Hill -- he gave up food for three weeks. Rep. Tony Hall's fast didn't get much reaction from his colleagues, but it did succeed in calling public attention to an issue that blights the lives of one billion people around the globe.

lTC In response, the World Bank offered to hold a major conference on hunger. This week it brought world leaders like United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and former President Jimmy Carter together with development officials and non-governmental organizations to discuss ways to get food to hungry people. It's true that wars and famines and natural disasters take a heavy toll, but the greater problem is the crippling lack of political will to end hunger. Bad policies kill more people than do war or bad weather.

The most effective weapons against hunger include free markets and private enterprise, along with investments in education and public health. They especially include projects like the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which give poor people access to the small amounts of capital they need to start enterprises that can bring self-sufficiency. The World Bank estimates that if developing countries, aided by international institutions, undertook economic reforms designed to benefit people living in absolute poverty, the number of people facing hunger could be cut in half in one generation.

That's eminently possible if enough people share the commitment shown by Mr. Hall.

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