The Vatican is pleading with governments to divert weapons spending to ensure food security for the 800 million chronically hungry people in the world.
– “Time for a deep and global ecological conversion”
The appeal from Rome came this morning in a live-streamed press conference from the Holy See on “COVID-19, Food crisis and integral ecology: the action of the Church”.
“Coronavirus is increasing food-related problems”, denounced Father Augusto Zampini-Davies, adjunct secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, deploring the “little progress” that has yet been made by international authorities on the issue of chronic hunger.
Zampini warned of the “catastrophic” socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic to date, which he said have included restrictions on food exports and imports that are affecting supply chains and the fact that producers are struggling to get their products to market.
Pointing to World Food Programme numbers that suggest that due to COVID-19 school closures 370 million children are presently at risk of losing the only meals they get – and to the reality that global warming continues to wreak “severe consequences” – Zampini alerted that “we are facing a severe risk in food security”.
“Food crises cause hunger, hunger affects the poorest people and increases insecurity. Insecurity will lead to violence and more conflicts, which will in turn cause more poverty”, the Integral Human Development adjunct secretary warned.
He continued saying that even though COVID-19 “has highlighted the fragility of our food systems, it is still an opportunity to change, both in production and consumption patterns and in private and public actions”.
“It is time for a deep and global ecological conversion, one that can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm”, Zampini insisted.
– “COVID has shown that we do not need as many things as we think. We can be more with less”
As ways to tackle the problem of global food insecurity, Zampini pleaded with governments to implement sustainable agriculture policies, support international food coalitions, divert funds from weapons to food, develop emergency labour measures for people toiling in the fields amid the pandemic and redouble efforts to combat the climate emergency.
The Vatican official urged citizens, meanwhile, to reduce food loss and waste and start changing their diets, eating seasonal food, and avoiding high-polluting products.
“COVID has shown that we do not need as many things as we think. We can be more with less”, Zampini urged.
– The pandemic, an opportunity that mustn’t be wasted “to imagine a better future”
For his part, and giving an update on the work of the Vatican COVID-19 commission, Integral Development Prefect Cardinal Peter Turkson said that in the Holy See officials are convinced that, despite the high human and economic toll, COVID-19 is an opportunity that mustn’t be wasted “to imagine a better future”.
“In one of the last meetings we had with Pope Francis, he asked us to ‘prepare the future: not ‘prepare for the future’, but prepare it, anticipate it”, Turkson explained.
Integral Human Development secretary Monsignor Bruno Marie Duffé added that the coronavirus has shown up our physical, social, political, ideological and economic “vulnerability”.
“We cannot continue believing that we are all powerful and immune to natural and climatic disorders”, Duffé cautioned, explaining that the pandemic “has evidenced our deficit in thinking, anticipating crises and the deficit of investing in sanitary equipments and prevention”.
“Until now we have considered health as a mere instrument to produce more and more, in the logic of vested and short-sighted interests. Today we are re-discovering health and solidarity as conditions and pillars of our economy”, the Integral Human Development secretary explained.
For his part, the secretary general of Catholic aid and development agency Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John, set out three Church demands to world governments at this stage of the pandemic: the removal of economic sanctions on Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Libya and Venezuela, the cancellation of the poor countries’ debt and increases in international aid.
“In this dramatic moment… the whole of humanity must be united in solidarity before this tragic pandemic”, John concluded.