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Sam and Esther – starvation in Africa

Updated on March 22, 2011

Starvation kills 25000 daily

“To look into the face of a suffering child is to see the depth of humanity is all that matters.” - from the video.

Despite the fact that the world produces more food than is needed to feed everyone on earth, the number of people who, according to the United Nations World Food Programme, do not have sufficient food to maintain life exceeds the total population of the United States, Canada and the European Union. More than 25000 people, adults and children, die of starvation every day. That's EVERY DAY! And every six seconds - say that again – every six seconds a child dies of starvation-related causes. So between the time I started writing that sentence and when the sentence was finished, another child had died. And by now another has died. Totally unnecessarily, completely avoidably. It is within the power of humanity, it is technologically possible, to prevent these deaths.

And still the dying goes on.

This late 1960s photograph shows a seated, listless child, who was among many kwashiorkor cases found in Nigerian relief camps during the Nigerian–Biafran war. Kwashiorkor is a disease brought on due to a severe dietary protein deficiency, and this c
This late 1960s photograph shows a seated, listless child, who was among many kwashiorkor cases found in Nigerian relief camps during the Nigerian–Biafran war. Kwashiorkor is a disease brought on due to a severe dietary protein deficiency, and this c

And the dying goes on

And while the dying goes on the US alone spends more than $500 billion on defence, on the weapons of war and destruction. More, by the way, than all the rest of the world put together. There will be many who try to justify this kind of expenditure, but no justification can possibly withstand the scrutiny of the eyes of one starving child, none.

And while the dying goes on the religious people get themselves into froths about gay marriages and pornography. Well, if they want to see something really obscene, let them look at the facts about starvation in the 21st Century. Like the fact that 60% of chronically hungry people are women.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation Director-General Jacques Diouf, “If the latest data tend to confirm our understanding of factors that contribute to food security, they also confront us with another difficult question: if we already know the basic parameters of what needs to be done, why have we allowed hundreds of millions of people to go hungry in a world that produces more than enough food for every woman, man and child? Bluntly stated, the problem is not so much a lack of food as a lack of political will.”

Hunger and starvation are human-made problems, not the will of God or chance. That is why it is so obscene that starvation continues, and especially that children bear the brunt of it.

And the answer does not lie in increased foreign aid to countries with problems of starvation, although in the short term aid is certainly needed. What would turn the tide is support in the form of cheap fertilizer and seeds, and help with improved farming techniques. When aid to developing countries has been in this form food production has increased and food prices decreased. But of course such aid is harder work and less glamorous than making out a huge cheque and handing it over with much pomp and ceremony. It also takes more time.

The story of Sam and Esther

The first of the two videos accompanying this Hub was sent to me by my cousin Peter Kirstein, and show the heartbreaking story of Sam and Esther, two children in a Ugandan village who are being looked after by their slightly older sister Jane, who is eight years old and is the effective head of the family. The video is searingly awful, dreadfully difficult to watch. To see those two children, to hear their cries, is almost more than anyone with any feeling can bear. As the narrator says, doctrinal squabbles just become sickening irrelevancies in the face of the suffering of these two innocent children, whose exploitation by the west is far more pornographic than any porno movie could ever be, all the more because it is so subtle, so hidden. At least the exploitation of pornography is out in the open.

As the woman in the movie states, “every child could be yours. These kids are beloved of God and yet they've been given up on.”

The story continues

The second video shows a follow-up on the story in which the children have been given treatment and hope and love. It is heart-warming, touching. And yet in the face of the enormity of the problem of starvation in Africa and elsewhere, one gets the feeling that these two children are so little, so much a drop in the ocean, does it make any difference. Of course it makes a huge difference to them, but to the millions of others it is irrelevant in a way. Because the system that keeps them starving is not touched in any way.

And it is a system that is deliberately keeping starvation real. The fact is that food production in the world is capable of feeding more than double the current world population, some 12 billion people could be fed by current food production levels. So it is, as Diouf of the FAO said, a matter of the lack of political will.

And while children go on dying we will go on making sure our pets are well fed and healthy, we will go on enjoying juicy steaks and driving cars which use unconscionable amounts of non-renewable resources, and getting ourselves all steamed up over gay bishops and whether evolution is true or not. Somehow these things all seem a little hollow when we look at the face of a starving child and hear the child's pitiful crying. Truly in the end, only love matters on an individual level, and only justice matters on a global level. To fight for both is to be fully human.

Disclaimer: I have to say that I have nothing whatsoever to do with the San Damiano Foundation nor the Village2Village programme. I am not fund raising or proselytising for them. Indeed I had never heard of either until I saw these videos today. It's just that these videos touched me very deeply and I thought to share the thoughts and feelings they brought up for me. They helped me think more deeply about these issues and so I thank the producers for that.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      hi dear goodevening/

      can i ask you?

      i am richard from philippines..i find ur country i search on this site i put in my mind sam and esther/

      did u know the 3 children sam,esther and jane..

      the first to saw that video i was sobbing to look at the little children swam in the dust..very dirty.and there sister jane get a food and water in a far miles alone brought the big galloon and something out in thei head?

      i saw jane she care his young brother and young sister in the dust..and he get and get water and take a bath the two then i was cry.because i was being piety with the childrenJane is too young .she do all the responsible of being an older sister she loves her brother and sister vey much i saw in his heart until now is very sad of wat happen to them.

      if you know him please regards.

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Hannah - thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. Glad you found it useful.

      Love and peace


    • profile image

      Hannah Donne 

      8 years ago

      This is a very good page am very happy to read something about what is going on. well done!!

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Peggy - thanks so much for stopping by. This is indeed a shameful situation and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Just been over to your Hub on hunger in the land of plenty and would like to link your to this one, if you don't mind?

      Love and peace


    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I did a similar hub some time ago about how simple things we can do can make a vast difference. It is shameful that anyone on this planet has to go to bed hungry much-less starve when there could be solutions to the problem. Great hub, Tony!

    • profile image

      kartika damon 

      10 years ago

      Thank you Tony, this was so well done and heartfelt! If we could take the resources going to war and feed people, imagine how we could change the world! Peace, Kartika

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 

      10 years ago from Iowa

      Thank you for putting something of great substance out there in HP. This is an important topic. I liked your comment that people are more concerned about their pets than about starvation. That is so true. We live in a world where people are fixated on sick fetishes and have no real compassion or concern for others. It is so sad.

    • profile image

      10 years ago

      this is a really sad story and this kind of stuff happens all around the world. I think we should stop focusing on the wars out there and start paying attention to the important things. we can truly make a change.

    • eonsaway profile image


      10 years ago from New Mexico, USA

      So glad this one had a happy ending. I am going to You Tube and send out the link to people I know.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      10 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Things never seem to improve do they?. Biafra yers ago, Ethiopi and more. I agree with much of what you say. Religions often have vst wealth but offer little help except for the spiritual kind. It makes you feel almost guilty for what you have and take for granted when you see starving children dying before your eyes on the news.

    • shamelabboush profile image


      10 years ago

      This is sad, sorrowful, lamentable tragedy! All the world should be ashamed and the advanced countries should be ashamed of themselves!!! As if we are living on a different planet. People are dying in Africa on daily basis, while in Somalia, they are still fighting to win the parliament or to win some political post. They buy weapons for millions of dollars, and you see the militias are boney and starving already. For the price of that stupid AK47, get some bread and feed your people for God's Sake!!! Instead of that expensive canon or chopper, build a farm or a well....

      Thanks tonymac04 for this amazing thoughtful hub...

    • profile image


      10 years ago from India Bangalore

      Ya the Hub was very much difficult to watch and read.

      the fact given in this Hub was very difficult to see, how much a person can resist without food,

      The people in Africa is suffering from malnutrion and no body think of it.

    • profile image


      10 years ago from India Bangalore

      Ya the Hub was very much difficult to watch and read.

      the fact given in this Hub was very difficult to see, how much a person can resist without food,

      The people in Africa is suffering from malnutrion and no body think of it.

    • profile image

      Peter Kirstein 

      10 years ago

      Excellent hub Tony. These video's are truly horifying and as you point out the treatment, hope and love given them is but a drop in the ocean. I truly believe that every drop adds up. If all who were able to did what they were able to in bring hope, relief & love to those in need it would all add up. Little is beter than nothing at all. Let us make a difference, even if it is only to one!

    • bingskee profile image


      10 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      that story of sam and esther made me cry. what an amazing sister they have! it is truly a paradox how the world is turning. it saddens me that these innocent victims have to suffer the malady of a society.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Those videos broke my heart.

    • Deltachord profile image


      10 years ago from United States

      Though it is overwhelming, we can all give some money to an organization that helps these children. All contributions help. Just think what would happen, if everyone gave even $20.00 to an organization that gave the poor cheap fertilizer and seeds.

      Some people may be in a position to volunteer too and go help.

    • Makiwa profile image

      Judy Witt 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Hi Tony - How sad and how true. What can we do? I always ask myself what can I do? but the situation is so vast and desperate, I feel helpless. Perhaps the movie stars that go and save one child should all club together and save a nation.

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for the comments - I do appreciate them.

      This is not a pleasant subject I know.

      Love and peace


    • Mary Neal profile image

      Mary Neal 

      10 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia, USA

      Thanks for this article. I don't know if I may put a YouTube link here. I think it is the answer to starvation.

      Hear "Love Train" by the O'Jays

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      The video is very moving and disturbing. We all should be glad for what we have and think about how we can in our own way help to lessen the misery.

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      "And it is a system that is deliberately keeping starvation real". That is sadly true. Globalised corporatism extracts money from wherever it can, investing only for short term profit, and abandons to their fate all those who are of no 'value' to it. Fine & timely hub.

    • emohealer profile image

      Sioux Ramos 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      Your hub touched me very deeply as well! Tony, the comparison wasn't even close. Our priorities and problem solving really does need to come under closer scrutiny. How can any of us stand idly by and wag our tounges about inconsequentials with this stark reality? While turning our heads and closing our eyes too. The money is available, the food is too. What an accountability you have shown to all of us. Thank you and let us all start being part of the cure and none of the problem! It can be resolved, changed and different!

    • Drew Breezzy profile image

      Drew Breezzy 

      10 years ago from somewhere in my mind

      Wow 60 % of the world? It is truly a shame the amount of suffering that occurs in the world on a daily basis.


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