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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.”

That’s what the World Food Program says (http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats) — and no, I have no clue what that means. I was following a story on that famous statistic that a child dies of hunger every 10 seconds and ended up on the WFP website to see “official statistics”.

What I discovered during my research, somewhat unsurprisingly, is that statistics live up to their reputation of being a version of truth/lies (as applicable). Numbers that can be juggled to augment reality — by just that much — to create shock and awe. For “human impact”, attention-grabbing headlines and yes, for dramatic effect and a chance at winning those oh-so-coveted advertising awards.

The ‘1 every 10 seconds’ statistic was one such augmentation, designed to grab attention by conjuring horrific visions of starving children in our minds. The statistic was derived from the results of a study that said under-nutrition causes 45% of child deaths, resulting in 3.1 million deaths annually. (Divide 3.1 million by the number of seconds in a year and you’ll arrive at the 1-every-10-seconds figure).

Reality, according to Jane Howard from the WFP (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22935692), lies somewhere on the edge of reason, tilting ever-so-slightly towards lies — that many children don’t die of starvation per se. “The truth is that the vast majority of those numbers that we’re talking about, are children who, because they haven’t had the right nutrition in the very earliest parts of their lives, are really very susceptible to infectious diseases, like measles,” she says.

Our inability to balance real needs and “good intentions”. That’s our undoing. If media hype and reports are to be believed, India’s current government is fast becoming an example of this inability…

So, to be clear, the child in the photograph is NOT dying of starvation, it is just a photo of a child.

Photograph taken at Lamgaundi, April 2014

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