Perhaps not inappropriately, World Food Day this year closely follows on the heels of Friday the 13th. The holiday, instituted by the UN in 1981 (and marking the date in 1945 when the UN itself was formed), aims to raise awareness about global poverty and hunger, and stimulate economic investment in solving the problem. And while awareness certainly has been raised, the problem isn't going away anytime soon: nearly a billion people worldwide suffer from malnutrition. Despite that, US aid aimed at stimulating rural agriculture in developing nations has fallen by 50% in the past twenty years -- though perhaps the Bush administration's preoccupation with Democracy-building abroad is actually a roundabout attempt to curb famine (we're giving them the benefit of the doubt here); no functioning democracy in modern times has suffered a famine. In fact, most of the twentieth century's worst famines have occurred under dictators, or some form of socio-political repression:
- The Chinese famine of 1958-61, which killed as many as 30 million, under Chairman Mao.
- The infamous Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, inflicted on the nation by a displeased Stalin, starving a million. (One such victim is pictured above.)
- The North Korean famine of the 1990s, claiming between 200,000-3.5 million lives.
- The Irish Potato Famine, in which at least 500,000 died between 1845-49 under the watchful eye of the British monarchy. (Let's not start a flame war here; we're certainly not equating the Torys with the the communist Chinese. But the Irish were, inarguably, a repressed people.)
So what can a regular joe do to help? Check out this map of World Food Day events happening around the globe.