Century-old armistice unveiled brutal foe of hunger

World War One destroyed communities and farmland which led to food shortages.

One hundred years ago, the Armistice of Nov. 11 brought the fighting of World War I mercifully to an end. The U.S. and Allies had defeated Germany and the Central Powers in what was called the Great War.

As we reflect on this history, let’s remember the timeless lessons of war and peace that emerged. World War I showed not only the horror of armed conflict, but its brutal partner: Hunger.

When President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress about the Armistice, he warned of hunger in the defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary and other Central Powers. Wilson said, “Everything that is possible in the circumstances will be done to supply them with food and relieve the distressing want that is in so many places threatening their very lives… Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness and all the ugly distempers that make an ordered life impossible.”

No armistice can be signed against the enemy of hunger. The battle against food shortages continued long after Nov. 11. Herbert Hoover, who coordinated food aid, described how in France “when the curtain was raised at the Armistice, there came into view destroyed cities, homes and farms.”

With farmers displaced from their homes and unable to grow food, famine became the threat. Hoover wrote, “A belt of once fertile land on both sides of the trench lines was so torn that it required years for restoration.”

Americans donated to help feed France and other nations in distress. The Congress also passed appropriations supporting food aid for the war victims.

It’s vital we remember the Armistice and the hunger that followed. The tragic thing is 100 years later there are still nations affected by war and at risk of famine.

The civil war in Yemen has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yemen is on the brink of famine. Carolyn Miles, the president of Save the Children, says, “This brutal conflict continues to claim the lives of more than 100 children per day – not just from conflict but also from disease and extreme food insecurity, which have been exacerbated by the ongoing violence.”

Yemen desperately needs a ceasefire, a peace treaty and food aid.

The civil war in Syria has destroyed agriculture, which will also take years to recover. Refugees from Syria are scattered throughout the Middle East and with the loss of livelihood they suffer from hunger.

South Sudan, a country with fertile land, has seen its farming industry also devastated by civil war. In the Sahel region of Africa conflict and drought have left millions with food shortages.

All these nations need emergency food aid. Catholic Relief Services, The World Food Program, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and other humanitarian agencies provide life-saving aid with the generosity of donors. As was the case after the Armistice the goodwill of the public through food drives and fundraisers is needed.

With enough funding these nations can rebuild agriculture and grow their own food.

Like after the Armistice, Congress is needed to back humanitarian relief through spending bills. Today’s Congress should increase funds for the Food for Peace program to fight hunger in today’s war and disaster affected nations.

One thing that was done after the Armistice was providing school meals to children in countries impacted by the war. Congress could further support school meals overseas today by increasing funding for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.

With the Armistice came hope of a lasting peace and the end to war and famine. We should never give up on these noble dreams that can inspire us this Armistice (Veteran’s) Day on Nov. 11.

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger.

Originally appeared in the Bakersfield Californian.

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JFK’s Humanitarian Halloween

When Halloween came around in 1960 John F. Kennedy, while campaigning for president, came across a unique trick or treat event. This ghoulish party was not about collecting candy but instead raising money for the UN agency fighting child hunger and disease-UNICEF.

JFK loved it! Kennedy remarked at a shopping plaza in Willow Grove where the UNICEF party took place, “I think that is in the best tradition of this country’s humane and sympathetic effort.” Kennedy continued speaking about fighting hunger and disease in his short speech.

In fact, when JFK became president he even issued a statement from the White House in support of Halloween trick or treat for UNICEF. Kennedy said “UNICEF has caught the imagination of our people–especially our nation’s children whose Halloween collections have become a symbol of concern and an expression of tangible aid.”

See my full commentary at The History News Network:

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Albuquerque Journal Oped: Save Yemen from Starvation on World Food Day

World Food Day is celebrated on Oct. 16, but in Yemen people are eating leaves just to survive. A civil war between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels has plunged the already impoverished country near(er to) famine.

If we do anything on World Food Day, let’s feed Yemen’s starving population. We must end the war and hunger that is killing civilians. We must ensure humanitarian access to every part of Yemen so people can get life-saving food and nutrition.

All Yemenis are at risk of some calamity in this war. Bombs are hitting homes, schools and hospitals.

See my full commentary in the Albuquerque Journal:

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If We Want to Show We’re Serious About Denuclearizing Korea We Should Sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

The summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un comes near the anniversary of one of President John F. Kennedy’s most famous speeches.  JFK, in a 1963 commencement address at American University, proposed to the Soviet Union ending nuclear weapons testing.

If Trump and Kim are wise, they will follow up on JFK’s test ban proposal to strengthen their own peace effort.

Let’s begin with the fact that North Korea has just dismantled its nuclear test site.  Why not take the next step and end all nuclear testing forever on the Korean peninsula and beyond.

See my full commentary at the History News Network