Imagine if, this evening, the entire population of the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain and the rest of Europe were going to bed hungry. And not just tonight, but one week after another. There would be media outrage and people in the streets. Every international meeting, every Prime Minister's Questions, every meeting of the United Nations would be dominated by this problem, and what could be done to solve it.
And yet tonight, that same number of people - 870 million - will indeed go to bed hungry, most of them in Africa and Asia, and most of them women and girls. So where is the outrage, where are the protests, where are the emergency international summits?
Well yesterday, and it is only a start, we did hear questions and MPs speak out in the House of Commons, we did have a promise of international meetings, and - above all - we heard the shouts of protests from the same campaigning charities who fought to free Mandela, who fought to cancel the debt, and who fought to Make Poverty History.
Yesterday, Oxfam, Save the Children, Unicef, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Action Aid and dozens of other charities came together again to lead the fight against hunger, appealing to a new generation who were not part of those previous struggles to make this one their own.
Significantly, this campaign - 'Enough Food for Everyone IF' - was launched on the day of a Westminster Hall debate on tackling global hunger in 2013, where MPs will debate how the government should address this widespread problem.
Our present global food system is broken. With food prices at their highest in decades, poor families in developing countries often spend as much as three quarters of their income on food. As it stands now, 2.3 million children die from malnutrition every year, and it is estimated that by 2025 nearly a billion young people over the world will face poverty because of the damage done to them now through hunger and malnutrition.
That this is allowed to continue is a scandal. The 'Enough Food for Everyone IF' campaign hopes to tackle this problem, urging governments to take action. Their campaign urges the UK government to invest in small-scale agriculture and malnutrition in developing countries. It is estimated that some countries lose 2 - 3% of their potential GDP because of under-nutrition.
Developing countries that spend more on agriculture tend to reduce hunger more, and by addressing malnutrition, the economic productivity of a country also sees improvement. The UK government should support those countries with good agricultural plans, and enshrine in law its commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on international aid. David Cameron reiterated this commitment yesterday in Prime Minister's Questions, but there is no news yet of when this aid promise will be legislated.
Presently, UK aid and projects funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) help stop an estimated ten million children in the developing world from going hungry, and in September 2011 DFID announced that they will be expanding their nutrition-related programmes to help reach 20 million children under the age of five. Additionally, the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of the United Nations sought to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, aiming to have halved the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2012. The latest UN review of the MDGs (published in 2010) shows that there has been some progress in reaching this target, however, there is still much work to be done.
The report also concluded that progress to end hunger has stalled since 2002 and that the global food and financial crisis has led to a spike in global hunger, with progress to end hunger being stymied in most regions. The UN report concludes that one in four children in the developing world are underweight and that the number of people who were undernourished in 2008 may be as high as 915 million and exceeded one billion in 2009.
Therefore, alongside investment in developing countries, the 'IF' campaign proposes a number of other initiatives to tackle global hunger. It wants the UK government to be more vigilant in preventing tax evasion. The argument is that, if tax evasion from individuals and corporations were prevented, governments would have more funds to contribute towards their international development programmes. Additionally, the 'IF' campaign encourages transparency in issues such as land ownership, land use, and government revenues and expenditure in developing countries.
By implementing systems that allow citizens, investors and other stakeholders to hold their governments to account, 'IF' hopes to promote food security in those countries that are affected by global hunger. Through its presidency of the G8 2013, the UK has an opportunity to lead the way on global international development programmes, and the government should take seriously its commitment to end the outrage of global hunger.
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