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Monday, October 16, 2006

Hungry Hearts

Today is World Food Day.

Food is a basic human right, yet around 800 million people in the world still go hungry every day.

 Children are some of the most vulnerable sects of the population threatened by the current food shortage.Aiming to heighten public awareness of the plight of the world's hungry and malnourished and to encourage people worldwide to take action against hunger, World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16 October to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1945.

First observed in 1981, more than 150 countries observe this event every year. In the United States, 450 national, private voluntary organizations sponsor World Food Day, and local groups are active in almost every community.

A report released by a US-based group says South Asia continues to face "critical" levels of hunger. The region has the highest levels of child malnutrition in the world, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. While in May, a Unicef report said half of the world's under-nourished children live in South Asia.

Added to the tally of the hungry are two million displaced people living in camps after fleeing three years of fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Sudanese government and the pro-government Arab militias are accused of war crimes against the region's black African population, although the UN has stopped short of calling it genocide.

Continuing with human rights abuses, the Pentagon has ordered an inquiry into alleged abuses at the US detention camp Guantanamo Bay after reports that guards boasted of beating and mistreating detainees. A marine sergeant who visited the camp has said she understood "striking detainees was a common practice" and had overheard a guard describe slamming a detainee's head into a cell door.

It is not difficult to question the logic that creates a camp for terror suspects that aids to radicalise extremists rather than promote security and counter terrorism. Arguably, the continuing detention without fair trial of prisoners is not only unacceptable in terms of human rights, but when most of the 450 detainees are released - as they will have to be if there is no evidence as to guilt - it will have helped create new recruits for terrorism when none had previously existed.

Meanwhile, Muslims across the globe entering into their final week of fasting for Ramadan are already sharing the plight of those less fortunate in spirit, in prayer, by going without and by donating to various charities at the end of the fast - so as to understand and appreciate the meaning of hunger in all its forms.

Ramadan can be compared to keeping the spirit of Christmas for a month. It is a time of the year when Muslims should try to act a little nicer, smile a little easier, cheer a little more. For a month out of the whole year they try to be the people that they always hoped they would be.

However, misguided Muslims in Iraq seem to have lost the Ramadan spirit again this year. With sectarian violence escalating throughout a month that should signal peaceful withdrawal and spiritual contemplation, Iraqi children are not only left hungry for food, but hungry for peace, too.

Send them a prayer, and feed their world in this way today.

Pictures courtesy of IFRC.

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