Unlike “dying of laughter” or “dying of fear”, mere figures of speech, “dying of hunger” is not an expression but a reality. Around the world, a child dies every 5 seconds as a result of malnutrition and hunger. Those who survive suffer long-term pain and sequelae.
In addition to the numerous infections caused by a weakened immune system, malnutrition has lifelong consequences on their mental and cognitive capacities, and therefore on their future income prospects. Many of the malnourished children cared for at Omoana House were raised by people who were malnourished themselves during the first years of their lives, thus affecting their mental capacities, their economic situation and their food security, creating a vicious circle.

It would be wrong to think that world hunger is only a distant phenomenon due to a lack of resources in the countries of the South. This planet has enough food for 10 billion people. Why are so many children still dying of hunger? There are many causes. The best-known are the poor governance of certain countries plagued by dictatorship or widespread corruption, as well as climate change. Profit-driven practices are also having an impact on global food security. Some of the food produced is used for agrofuels or to feed livestock. Drinking water, an essential element of quality nutrition, is not always available and is sometimes privatized by agribusiness giants. Western, Chinese and Indian companies are expropriating much of the land of farmers in the South to plant environmentally disastrous monocultures, to the detriment of the family farming so necessary for sustainable food security. A practice with its roots in Switzerland also plays an important role in this disaster. This is speculation in food commodities. Western-based traders buy gigantic quantities of grain and sell them at a profitable time. They encourage scarcity so that prices reach unbelievable levels. What are the consequences of this practice? Fluctuating food prices on world markets, with disastrous effects on the food security of the poorest families. What’s the point? Enriching traders in Geneva and Zurich, and filling the coffers of the communes, cantons and countries that host such companies. Any other use? Simply a way of maintaining a financial system that commits one of the crassest crimes against humanity for the enrichment of a few. One wonders when the world will wake up. When will it see world hunger for what it is – an evil to be fought with the same vigor as slavery, the Holocaust or apartheid? That would mean fighting every cause of hunger.

In February, the Swiss people will vote on an initiative to ban speculation in food commodities in Switzerland. The initiative would only ban financial speculation motivated by short-term gains. It would not, however, affect direct trade and transactions on the real market, or price hedging, which stabilizes the system. Some fear that it would harm the Swiss economy. In any case, it’s time to find out how far we’re prepared to go for our prosperity. Let’s not forget that, despite what people may say, Switzerland has not always been on the right side of history. The question today is whether it is prepared to defend its values and take a long-term view. What’s more, some companies have already understood the disastrous impact of financial speculation on food prices and have assumed their responsibilities.

For example, the AVS fund and Raiffeisen have withdrawn from this market. This contradicts the claims of Economie Suisse that combating this speculation would have no positive effect. Omoana’s aim is to defend the rights of the children of Uganda, and it is with this in mind that we encourage you to find out more about the “No speculation in foodstuffs” initiative, which will be put to the vote on 28 February at: http://stopspeculation.ch .