South Korea knows about the struggle against hunger and malnutrition. They have seen it up close. The Second World War, its aftermath and the Korean War brought hunger to the door of nearly every citizen.
That is why it's so important that South Korea joined the Zero Hunger Challenge. This is the global initiative put forward by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The plan calls for every person, every organization and every nation to do its part to end world hunger.
The lead agency in this fight is the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which feeds the hungry in over 70 countries. Ertharin Cousin, the WFP director, was in South Korea recently as the Zero Hunger Challenge was kicked off there.
"The example of the Republic of Korea is proof that we can achieve Zero Hunger in our lifetime. As country that has transitioned rapidly from a recipient of international aid to becoming a donor to other countries in need of assistance, the world can learn a lot from the ROK experience."
How right this is. Whenever I speak to a class I bring up the story of U.S. Army Major Charles Arnold, who led a U.N. Civil Assistance Team during the Korean War. As refugee children would stand in line waiting for food, they would rub their stomachs in hunger. These children and their families had fled the fighting and lost their homes, their belongings and whatever resources they owned. In this chaos of war there is little or no food to be had.
Major Arnold remarked how the milk and rice his team distributed had such an amazing effect on the children. Within weeks they were getting back to health. As the war continued children and their families continued to receive this life-saving support. UNICEF, for example, brought milk to millions of Korean children. What a difference for a generation. Where would South Korea be had this aid not been provided? Every cup of milk or rice matters.
After the war, aid continued to help rebuild the country. Think of the U.S. Food for Peace program that provided millions of Korean children with school meals. CARE, in fact, was one of the charities that was a big part of this relief.
When the UN World Food Programme was founded in the 1960's, South Korea was one of the first places they started working. It does take time to recover from war, even into decades. Now today, South Korea is a donor to WFP. They are helping countries suffering from hunger like they did years back. Some of the countries are facing war just like Korea went through.
South Korea is a ray of hope that things can turn around for a country. The cycle of conflict, poverty and hunger does not need to be inevitable.
The bridge to peace for a country requires building its food security, that is why the Zero Hunger Challenge is one essential for world peace. For you cannot have a generation of malnourished children grow up to be the one that solves their country's problems. They won't have the strength or the education necessary to do so. They will be too weakened from years with lack of food and basic nutrition. They will not be able to achieve an education because they are suffering with hunger.
It does not always take much to alter this tragic course of events. If food is provided to all children it can drastically change the outcome for the better. Remember Korea.
You can take up the Zero Hunger Challenge here.
Article originally published at The Huffington Post.