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World Could Grapple with Hunger Pandemic by the End of the Year

Marion Charatan

Posted on May 26, 2020 13:52

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Experts say the economic effects of the COVID-19 health pandemic will likely trigger unprecedented hunger around the world

There hasn't been a day since news of the worldwide pandemic hit that you can't find a story related to COVID-19. I struggled with despair seeing visceral images of hospital patients lining hallways, comatose on ventilators, or bodies being loaded onto freezer trucks. It has been sobering for all of us. 

What's also disturbing is the prediction that the world will suffer from a famine of "biblical proportions," said David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN's World Food Program. I have seen what hunger does to people.

A few years ago, I volunteered at a local food bank. It was an uplifting experience, not only to help others but to nurture emotional connections. When I heard firsthand why someone was "down and out" and simply couldn't afford to buy food, it was an eye-opener. I knew that folks struggle -- but it was painful to learn from a homeless man, 40 years old and articulate (he took pride in his appearance even if he had to clean up in a library restroom), that he had lost his job as a stylist at an upscale hair salon in Seattle, making 150K a year, because he was late to work one too many times and the owner wouldn't tolerate it. So, he was living on the street and destitute a year later, following an eviction.

A pretty, well-spoken young woman told me she was from a wealthy family and had been attending the University of WA, until she got pregnant and was disowned by her parents. She said she had no choice but to drop out of school in her second year and go on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) so she could care for her baby.

Then there was the 59-year-old man with a gentle temperament, quiet and clearly intelligent. His story -- he had a Ph.D. in Physics and taught at the U until he had a complete nervous breakdown and could no longer work. He was "too embarrassed" to tell his daughter, who lived and taught school in Portland. His disability check barely covered his expenses. Sad but true stories and there were many more tales about mental illness, addiction, loss of work, being older or disabled, that led to little to no income. 

What happened to these people? I have thought about them over the years. With the pandemic, I hope they are not experiencing more hardship as food banks are getting fewer donations: they face record shortages.

Where does this leave people? The worst-case scenario states that 265 million people worldwide could be headed toward famine by the end of 2020. The US Congress and legislatures around the world must take immediate steps to protect the vulnerable. The clock is ticking.

On a positive note: I learned the professor finally told his daughter and now comfortably lives with her and his son-in-law safely out-of-state.

Marion Charatan

Posted on May 26, 2020 13:52

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