As millions across the world living in extreme poverty were forced again to feed themselves for less than £1 a day, many more joined them this week as part of the Live Below the Line campaign. The campaign challenged people in the UK to live on a fiver from Monday until Friday to get them thinking about what poverty really means on a day-to-day basis (and to raise some money while they were doing it!).
Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children are some of the organisations behind this campaign and having read blogs and articles all week about people’s experiences, what struck me is how much we take for granted.
I spent yesterday afternoon wandering around Borough market, admiring the piles of fresh fruit, the vast wheels of cheese and shining fishmonger stalls and munching through a salt beef sandwich. I am beyond lucky. Deciding what I want for dinner and then going to the shop to buy the ingredients is something I am able to do each week. Having the means to do this is a luxury. My basic human right to food is being fulfilled, and then some!
This right to food is universal; it is codified in international law under Article 11 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. But why do I have enough food? Why are there people in the world who have so little to eat that they die of starvation?
Human rights scholar, Michael Freeman, highlighted this in his book, Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Approach. He stated that ‘the rhetoric of human rights is universal; the scope of human rights is not: there is a human right to food, but millions starve’.
The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign is also working to close this gap between the rights outlined in existing legislation, and reality. The IF campaign is focused on four issues: aid, tax, land, and transparency. The idea is that there will be enough food for everyone if leaders act on these issues by giving ‘enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves’, by stopping large companies from ‘dodging tax in poor countries’, by stopping ‘poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars’ and if governments and companies are ‘honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food’.
There are concerns that the IF campaign lacks a clear message and is just a new version of the Make Poverty History campaign. However, with 150 organisations behind it and a plan of action linked to David Cameron’s Hunger Summit and the UK G8 Summit, both in June, perhaps this campaign will have a real impact in tackling world hunger.
A photo essay published last week (http://www.visualnews.com/2013/04/27/hungry-planet-what-the-world-eats-in-a-week/) gave an insight into the weekly diet of families around the world. The variety of fresh produce, packaged foods and bottled drinks was fascinating. One photo that stood out was of a family in Chad who sat with a sack of rice, another of lentils and some smaller bags of what looked like spices and limes. Scroll down the page and there is a picture of a family in Germany with upwards of 50 bottles and cartons of wine, beer and juice in among their weekly shop.
It is clearer now more than ever that as a global community we need to re-evaluate what it means to have “enough”.
What can you do? The IF campaign has outlined six areas get involved in, including fundraising and upcoming events: http://enoughfoodif.org/get-involved. It’s also not too late to take part in the Live Below the Line challenge and raise money for the Global Poverty Project: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/uk?lang=en.